Tragedy of orphaned boy,

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The Independent Online

Only two days after attending the funeral of his father, a boy of nine is facing Christmas as an orphan after he found his mother dead in her bedroom.

The double tragedy has shocked the school and family friends of Ben Bradshaw, from Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Described as lively, energetic and polite, he is said to be "lost without his parents".

Police were astonished at the bravery of the boy after he called 999 when he went to his mother's bedroom in the morning and found he could not wake her. Paramedics pronounced Annette Bradshaw dead at the scene.

Thames Valley Police, who released details of the incident yesterday, said they had removed tablets from the house.

Ben was alone when he discovered the body of his mother lying collapsed on the bathroom floor. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances connected with her death.

Mrs Bradshaw, 44, a nurse, had taken Ben to the funeral of his father, Bill, a 52-year-old copywriter who had died from cancer.

Although friends said he fought hard against the spreading disease and had refused to go into a hospice full time so that he could spend as much time as possible with his family, pain had forced him to spend his last week in a hospice. After the funeral, his wife had said both she and Ben wanted to "get back to normal".

David Hastings, a friend of the family who works at Oxford University, said: "It is hard to react other than to be very shocked and sad. Ben took up most of her time - he is a lovely boy, very lively, energetic and always very polite. This is such a tragic way for him to spend Christmas."

Mr Bradshaw's sister, Jean, and her husband Terry, are now looking after Ben at their home in Preston, Lancashire. In an attempt get his life back to normal as soon as possible, he has been enrolled in a primary school in the town where his cousin is a pupil. However, his Abingdon school friends are missing him.

William Ginger, one of Ben's best friends, said: "I can't believe what has happened and I'm very sorry for Ben." William has written a letter to his friend saying: "I am sorry about your mum and dad both dying, I feel really sad for you."

William's mother, Julia Ginger, said Ben was always around her home making noise and playing. "The house seems quiet now that he's gone," she said.

Neighbours who knew the Bradshaws well said they felt he was a "sturdy boy" and that he would be all right with his relatives in Lancashire. Mrs Bradshaw's only surviving relative is her sister, who lives in the United States.

Ben's former headteacher, John Fisher, said: "This is a tragic story that has shocked us all.

" The big fear is that other children who have lost a parent will be worried that they may lose the other."