Police study Net bomb-making sites in hunt for killer of `kind and loving father'

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The Independent Online
AT THE entrance to Stephen Hoggarth's modest second-floor flat, a lone policeman was standing guard last night, his fluorescent anorak buttoned up against the icy wind. It was through the same entrance last Saturday that a postman inadvertently delivered the parcel bomb that killed Mr Hoggarth and threatened the life of his son, Callum, three.

As detectives continued scouring Mr Hoggarth's flat in Lincolnshire for clues yesterday, police revealed they were also searching the Internet - the source, they believe, of the killer's knowledge of bomb making. "If you know where to look on the Internet you can find out how to make a bomb. There must be 300 such sites out there," a police spokesman said. "Part of our house-to-house inquiries include asking people if they have a computer and if they have access to the Internet."

Mr Hoggarth, 32, a carpetlayer, was killed when he picked up the parcel that had been delivered to his house in Louth, a market town 15 miles from Lincoln, at around 8.30am on Saturday. Police said he probably died instantly from "the considerable explosion" that caused massive chest injuries. One of his hands was also blown off by the blast. As a team of 50 detectives continued inquiries yesterday, Mr Hoggarth's family made an appeal for information. His brother, Rob Hoggarth, said: "None of us can think of anyone who might want to harm him. Stephen was kind, generous, a loving father and boyfriend of Zoe [Richardson]."

Mr Hoggarth's sister Mo Kane said Callum - who was alone with his father's body for more than two hours before relatives phoned to be told by the child what had happened - had been told his father had "gone to heaven". She added: "He keeps saying `My daddy's dead, my daddy's dead'."

Mr Hoggarth had been seeing Ms Richardson, 21, a shop assistant, for two-and-a-half years, since separating from his former wife and Callum's mother, Lynn, 26. The parents were said to be on amicable terms and Mr Hoggarth, although described as a loveable rogue, was also a doting father.

On Friday night, Mr Hoggarth had gone to a pub and then fetched pizzas for himself, Ms Richardson and Callum, whom he had just collected from his former wife's home. "He was in a jovial mood; he was fine," Ms Richardson said. The last she saw of him was early the next morning when he had jokingly told her: "Get out of bed and go to work."

Although it emerged yesterday that Mr Hoggarth had a conviction for assault after attacking a colleague at a work party in 1997, police said there was nothing obvious in his past to point to a motive. His former father- in-law, Glyn Macdonald, with whom Callum and his mother are now staying, said: "I just cannot see why anyone would want to do it. Sure, he rowed with people, but not to the extent where anyone would want to kill him."

Police - who only learnt late on Tuesday that Mr Hoggarth was killed by a bomb rather than a gas explosion as they originally believed - are convinced, however, that Mr Hoggarth was deliberately targeted by someone who "bore him a grudge".

Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Cook, who is leading the investigation, said: "Whoever constructed this device knew their intent and callously carried out the killing with total disregard for human life."

In Louth, a smart town of cosy pubs and upmarket shops, the killing has stunned locals. Howard Parkison, Mr Hoggarth's boss at the floorlayers where he worked, said: "Everybody is totally shocked. He was a very well liked and jovial man. No one can understand why this has happened."

But the police have to think differently. Although their investigations are "widespread" they believe that - as with most murder cases - the killer is most likely to be someone with links to the victim.

As the people of Louth go quietly about their Christmas preparations, there is probably someone among them who bears enough of a grudge to send a bomb to a young father and his three-year-old son.

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