Father writes football poem for his murdered son, Rhys

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The father of Rhys Jones has made public a poem he wrote in tribute to his son, as police renewed their appeal for a vital witness to the murder of the 11-year-old to come forward.

Stephen Jones, 44, and his wife, Melanie, 41, spoke in an interview of how they have tried to maintain a semblance of normality – drawing the curtains in Rhys's bedroom every night and saving his portion at meal times – as they try to cope in the aftermath of the killing. The couple revisited the scene outside the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth, Liverpool, where their son was murdered by a lone teenager firing a hand gun from a BMX bicycle a week earlier. Rhys, a passionate Everton supporter, was walking home from a football practice match when he was struck by a bullet to the back of the neck.

In his poem, Mr Jones imagines his son playing football in a team chosen by God including George Best, Alan Ball, Bobby Moore and the famous Everton players Dixie Dean and Brian Labone. The poem also criticises features of the modern game from high wages to diving by players.

As the couple marked the first week since the murder, the 11th teenager to be arrested in connection with the shooting was released by Merseyside Police. The 15-year-old, who was arrested on Tuesday, was released on police bail.

It was reported last night that one teenager involved with the investigation is notorious to police as a member of a gang called the Croxteth Crew, who rides a bike and wears a hooded top over a dark cap. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder earlier this year but was released without charge, reports said. It was unclear whether the teenager was the 15-year-old who was released on bail.

Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, the officer leading the investigation, reiterated the need for witnesses to the shooting, which happened shortly after 7.30pm, to come forward, in particular one man who called at about 11.50pm on Saturday with potentially vital information. Police have guaranteed the anonymity of witnesses.

Mr Kelly said: "We have had a man telephone us with key information. He is very brave. I would appeal personally for him to get back in touch."

Rhys's parents, who both work for Tesco, spoke of how their son still had a cuddly toy in his bedroom, which they had been trying to persuade him to relinquish before he started secondary school. It would have started next week.

Referring to Rhys in the present tense throughout the interview with the Liverpool Echo, Mr Jones said he had finally worked out why his son always had a shortage of matching socks. He said: "I was in his room and on top of the wardrobe are loads of rolled-up balls of socks. He would take his socks off when he got home from school, roll them up into a ball and play football in his room. When he kicked them against the wall, they'd end up on top of his wardrobe and he was too small to reach up and get them. But he was never too small for us."

Mr Jones described how he, his wife and their 17-year-old son, Owen, found themselves behaving as if Rhys were still alive: "I go and sit in Rhys's room and on his bed. I go and draw the curtains and put the light on every night. I am still doing it because it is really hard to stop."

He added: "When something like this happens you forget to eat, you don't want to eat. But our families are watching us on a 24-hour shift, so we got the normal pizzas and garlic bread. But garlic bread comes cut up in four pieces and now there is only three of us. No one would touch that last piece. No one would eat Rhys's piece of garlic bread."

He said the death had yet to sink in, speaking of the unreality of visiting the hospital to see the body and finding staff had bought an Everton duvet and pillow for him. Mr Jones said: "He looked, just like he was tucked up in bed at home."