'Devastated' family of pensioner appeal for help


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The Independent Online

The son and daughter of a pensioner murdered at her riverside cottage appealed today for help to bring her killer to justice.

The body of retired teacher Betty Yates, 77, was found at her remote property near Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 4. She is believed to have been killed two days earlier.

Her daughter Hazel told a press conference that it was possible her mother knew her killer.

She said: "Friends and family ask us what we think of who could be responsible for this but we have no idea of who could do something like this to our mum."

Hazel Costello told the media that her mother's funeral took place last week.

She said: "We are, of course, devastated by the dreadful manner in which our mum met her death at the beginning of this year.

"We held her funeral on Thursday of last week, which was an even sadder affair because we were too fragile to contemplate a gathering beyond immediate family.

"We would like to apologise to all those people who would have liked to have paid their respects and we promise to hold a memorial service later in the year when our feelings are less raw."

Mrs Costello, flanked her brother, David Yates, added: "We are completely bewildered as to who could carry out such a savage attack on our mother.

"That this should have happened in her home makes this even more difficult to bear.

"Our mum and dad searched for many years to find this spot and then built their dream, not just in bricks and mortar.

"Our father, Ray, died almost seven years ago and there was never a possibility in our minds that Mum would want to leave the cottage.

"She was so happy there - it is a truly beautiful place filled with shared family memories."

Mr Yates told the press conference: "Our mum was 77 but in the press we have heard her described as 'elderly'. Nothing could be further from the truth - our mum was full of life, which makes this even harder to take.

"She swam most days at a local hotel and was a member of a walking group.

"She had been a teacher before she retired and she remained in contact with many of her ex-pupils. She always wanted to know how they were getting on."

Listing his mother's many interests, Mr Yates added: "Since Dad's death she had busied herself because she missed him.

"She joined the University of the Third Age and ran their book club and attended arts sessions.

"She volunteered for the Bewdley Festival and had recently gone back to a local school to help out with listening to kids read.

"She was at the heart of the community in Bewdley and we know from all the cards we have had how much she was loved and will be missed."

He went on: "We are asked by friends and family what we think about whoever was responsible for killing our mum.

"This is really difficult because we are at a loss to understand why somebody could do this and what we really need is some kind of explanation."

Mr Yates, 51, said the family had spent Christmas together, as they did every year, before his mother, who was celebrating her birthday, returned to her home on December 28.

"It is not just our sadness as a family but our friends and her friends - many of whom we do not know - who have lost somebody who was great fun to be with and a constant support," he said.

"It is striking how many people have described her as like a second mum and of course we know how much she meant to her ex-pupils, many of whom have sent letters or posted messages on Facebook."

Appealing directly for the killer to give themselves up, Mrs Costello said: "This has been such a hard time for us - to lose your mum is always dreadful but to lose your mum like this when you worry constantly about how frightened she might have been or what she might have felt during such a vicious attack is like a nightmare.

"At the moment we don't know if it was a burglary or if there was any other reason.

"It is possible our mum knew who killed her and this only makes things worse."

The 53-year-old solicitor, whose mother taught at schools in the West Midlands and the Wyre Forest area, added: "Please, if you know anything about this can you come forward.

"If you have done this then please hand yourselves in. And if you are protecting somebody, please think about how we are hurting and tell the police what you know."

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Jamieson, who is leading the inquiry, urged anyone who visited Mrs Yates' cottage between December 28 and January 2 to come forward.

The officer said: "This is a massive inquiry and knowing who else has been at the cottage other than Mrs Yates, even if someone just popped in for a moment, could prevent officers wasting time and resources that could be focused on other parts of the investigation.

"We are as determined as ever to track down the person or people responsible for this dreadful murder and we will not stop until we have achieved that."

After listening to the appeal made by Mrs Yates' children, DCI Jamieson stated: "No-one could fail to be moved by what we have heard from the family and I would again urge anyone holding back information to pick up the phone now.

"I would also like to remind everyone that a reward of up to £10,000 has been offered by Crimestoppers for anyone who contacts the independent charity anonymously on 0800 555 111 and passes on information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for killing Betty Yates."

Anyone with information which could assist the inquiry is urged to contact the Major Incident Room at Stourport Police Station on 0300 333 3000.