Orphan Eric flies to new life

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The Independent Online
Orphan Eric Heath will fly back to Britain this weekend to a new life with his grandparents after he was found lying next to the body of his dead mother.

Greek police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of 37-year-old Jane Heath after her emaciated body was found in a squat .

Ms Heath had left behind a career in Britain running her own hairdressing business to work on a farm near the bustling port of Piraeus. But she fell on hard times after splitting from her Liverpudlian husband Michael McCann and losing her job when the farm began to suffer in an economic depression.

She and the child returned to Piraeus - but were soon reduced to begging in the streets.

Last year, they were taken in by a farmer after he saw a sign written in Greek round Eric's neck begging: "I am English, please help. Thank you." The farmer provided for them in return for them working on his land.

Last week they were brought in off the city streets by a tinker called Markos Panayotopoulos, 52. On Tuesday, Jane was found dead. Panayotopoulos was later arrested and charged with possession of marijuana but he has been cleared of any involvement in her death.

The child has spent the last week in the Pzaneio foundation orphanage. Yesterday, Foreign Office officials were finalising details to fly Eric back home to a new life with his grandparents - Jane's parents - at their Somerset home.

Retired builder Eric Heath, 73, and his wife Carol had expressed doubt at being able to cope with bringing up their grandson.

The couple, who live in the village of Wayford, near Crewkerne, Somerset, had a change of heart after reassurances from the Foreign Office and local social services.

"We will love him and look after him as best we can," Mrs Heath said. "We have not spoken to him yet. We are just devastated and we are feeling quite ill."

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