Retired social worker dies days after brutal attack while walking to play organ at Christmas Eve Midnight Mass

Alan Greaves was fatally injured in a sustained attack just five minutes' walk from his home

A retired social worker beaten to death as he walked to church to play the organ for a Midnight Christmas mass had spent his whole life serving others and had no enemies in the community, friends and colleagues said tonight.

Alan Greaves, 68, was fatally injured in a sustained violent attack just five minutes’ walk from his home where his family had gathered to celebrate Christmas Day together.

Detectives today said that witnesses had come forward following the attack on a well-used road close to a school at 11pm on 24 December and had described a person that could be the killer. They were hoping to identify the suspect from CCTV footage obtained from businesses nearby including a parade of shops where Mr Greaves had helped his wife to set up a community food bank.

Police said they had not identified a motive for the attack on the father-of-four described as a “gentle giant” who was well-known in the community for his good works.

The killer left behind Mr Greaves’ wallet after the attack and police are trying to discover if he knew his killer or was the victim of a one-off random attack. Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick said no similar attacks had come to light from police files.

“We’ve had a good response and witness statements from a number who have seen something,” he said. “They have not identified (the attacker) but seen a person that could be the killer.”

Mr Greaves was the regular organist at St Saviour’s church in in High Green, Sheffield, and played the piano for a local school. His wife, Maureen, worked for an evangelical charity and he had helped her set up the food bank and community centre to help those struggling during the recession.

Rev Simon Bessant, who spent Christmas Day with the family at his hospital bedside, said that a number of people had turned up in tears at his door after hearing of his death in hospital on yesterday night. “It just makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.

A video on the Church Army website shows Mr Greaves helping his wife at midweek services for young families and at an old people’s homes.  They opened the food bank and community centre earlier this month with £4,000 from members of their church. The couple were a well-recognised in High Green – he tall and thin, she short and energetic – as they sang carols outside the local Co-op, and worked door-to-door in the community.

“I’m just appalled and devastated by this attack,” said Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Church Army. “He was just a very generous, gentle, compassionate, caring and lovely guy. He poured his whole life into other people.”