Mystery surrounds death of boy, 11, found in woods near school

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Rory Blackhall, aged 11, disappeared just a few hundred yards from the gate of Meldrum primary school in Livingston, West Lothian, on Thursday morning as he returned for the first day of the new term.

However, it was not until his grandfather went to collect him at the end of the school day that it was discovered he had not been in classes. The alarm was quickly raised.

Residents joined police and mountain-rescue volunteers to search the area surrounding the school and a body, matching the boy's description, was eventually discovered at lunchtime on Sunday.

Although the hunt for Rory has been called off, a formal identification of the boy has not yet been made because of "suspicious circumstances". The body was left where it was found until the forensic teams could complete a detailed examination.

A police spokesman said the death was being treated as suspicious "in accordance with standard procedure in cases where a body is found in the open air".

Although it was believed that Rory had been upset by family problems, the police said it was too early to comment on whether the death was the result of suicide, murder or an accident.

"It's not been an easy task for the officers and they are obviously taking their time, but it's just too difficult to speculate on," said the spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police.

However, as uncertainty over the cause of death continued, members of the close-knit local community, who have been lining up to lay floral tributes close to the spot where the body was found, admitted to being frightened. Many concerned mothers were choosing to take their children to and from Meldrum primary until they knew what had happened to Rory.

"My son normally walks to school as we live close by, but obviously that's changed at the moment," said Karen Carroll, 37. "I'll take him there and back - that's the safest thing to do, I think."

Shortly before the body was discovered, Rory's mother, Michelle Blackhall, a primary school teacher at a different West Lothian school, described Rory as a "fantastic and affectionate" son. She spoke of his passion for trains and for diving, and his love of dogs.

However, she admitted that he had been unhappy for some time. The 41-year-old mother of two, from the Adambrae area of Livingston, said that Rory had had a hard time lately.

"There have been things happening within the family that have upset Rory.

"There have been a number of things happening during the year and going back to school after the holidays may have tipped the balance for him."