Tragedy of two best friends

Double murder on Merseyside: community in shock after bodies of 'pleasant and well-behaved' schoolboys found at beauty spot
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The Independent Online
For the two Eastham schoolboys, like those up and down the country, the fishing trip should have marked the beginning of their school holidays.

Robert "Robbie" Gee, 12, and his friend Paul Barker, 13, set off at lunchtime on Saturday for the heavily-wooded beauty spot Eastham Rake, not far from their homes.

Robbie, an only child, lived with his parents Leonard and Catherine in a modern council house in Darleydale Drive, Eastham. Paul lived with his parents and 11-year-old sister Hannah in nearby Haygarth Road.

The boys had known each other since they were at primary school. Then they moved up to South Wirral High School at Eastham, and were in the same class.

"Both Robbie and Paul were dead nice, not at all cheeky," said one of their friends, 16-year-old Lee Byrne, last night. "They grew up together and were inseparable. Everyone around here just can't believe this has happened."

The two boys had cycled to a pond known as The Carpies, near the M53 motorway. Both were riding mountain bikes and carrying fishing equipment in a green haversack. They were also carrying rods.

"We know they got to the fishing pond because their equipment had been set up and there were signs that fishing had taken place," said Detective Superintendent Geoff Harrison, leading the inquiry.

When they failed to return home by 5.30pm, their fathers began searching for them and later reported them missing.

Police search teams found their fishing tackle still set up at a pond. Then, early yesterday morning, they discovered Robbie's body with knife wounds under some trees.

Yesterday afternoon, a second body, believed to be Paul's, was found on the banks of another pond about 500 yards away.

Det Supt Harrison told a news conference at Bromborough police station that the bodies were discovered in a vast area of shrubs and ponds. Neither had been hidden.

"There were signs of clothes being disturbed on both bodies. But I can't link that with a sexual motive at the moment," Det Supt Harrison said.

He said that as the boys' fathers were searching, they met two other boys who told them they had seen their sons moving from one pond to the other. Both sets of parents were "very distressed".

Det Supt Harrison stressed there was no known motive for the killings at this stage. "We are keeping an open mind and not ruling anything out at the moment. These boys were very happy, pleasant, well-behaved children."

Last night their friends reacted with shock to the news of their deaths. "Robbie and Paul did everything together. They were great mates," said Lee Byrne. "Robbie played on the wing for two local school teams, Parkdale and Haygarth."

Another friend, Helena Griffiths, 14, said: "This hasn't sunk in yet. We can't believe it." She said Robbie was keen on his Super Nintendo computer game and supported local football teams Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers.

"He used to go mainly to Tranmere games but also Liverpool," she added. "Robbie was a great sportsman."

A murder incident room has been set up at Wallasey police station. Anyone with information is asked to ring the incident room on 0151 7772064.

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