'The worst possible trauma'

Murder on Merseyside
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The Independent Online

The families of schoolboys Robbie Gee and Paul Barker yesterday made emotional pleas for help in catching the killer who stabbed them to death on a fishing trip.

Their voices cracking with emotion, relatives of the boys told of the families' devastation and said that the events of Saturday and the aftermath were "the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to us".

Raymond Williams, Paul's uncle, told a police news conference: "We need to catch the person who has done this terrible thing before it happens to any other child." Mr Williams, sitting beside Robbie's grandfather Aubrey Edge, urged: "Please help catch this person and give the police all the information you can."

Mr Edge said simply: "Their lives must not be in vain. It must not happen to anyone else."

Detectives investigating the murders appeared no nearer last night to establishing a motive for the killings of Robert, 12, and Paul, 13. Tests on the bodies failed to discover if they had been sexually assaulted, although it was confirmed that both had died from stab wounds in the chest. Few new clues emerged after a long and difficult day's fingertip search of the murder scene at Brookhurst Fields, scrubland on the edge of Eastham in Wirral.

The boys had gone off on their mountain bikes to fish in one of the three ponds in the wooded area just after lunch, having told their parents where they planned to be. Only when they failed to return at 5pm did the boys' families become alarmed and went out to search for them, finally calling the police later in the evening.

Robert's body was found in the early hours of Sunday morning under some bushes, though Paul's was not discovered until around 2pm more than 500 yards away, leading detectives to speculate that one of the boys had tried to escape as the other was attacked.

Det Supt Geoff Harrison, who is leading the search for the boys' killer, said officers had interviewed four teenagers who had been fishing at the "Carpies" pond. Officers also interviewed a 36-year-old man, probably the last person to see the boys alive, who had directed them to another pond through a tunnel under the M53 motorway.

At the boys' school, South Wirral High, Alan Favager, the deputy head, told of the disbelief of parents and pupils alike. "It's incredible. Most people just can't believe it's true.''