Together in grief, the women left behind hope for answers at last

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There was one very obvious absentee from Doreen McGowan's Mother's Day lunch yesterday - her son Jason.

She had returned to thepub where he had treated her to a celebratory meal last year. But this year, after dining with her younger children, Mrs McGowan spent the afternoon by her eldest child's grave.

The mysterious deaths of Harold "Errol" McGowan, 34, and his nephew Jason, 20, - found hanged within six months of each other - have become the subject of much controversy and speculation.

But to the three women closest to them - Jason's mother, his wife, Sinead, and Harold's fiancée, Sharon Buttery - the deaths have simply been the source of unrelenting pain. As she welcomed the news that West Mercia police were now treating the investigation as a murder inquiry, Mrs McGowan appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

"Somebody must know something about my brother's and son's deaths. Harold and Jason are dead and they aren't coming back but if anybody knows something we would very much like them to come forward."

Proudly showing the gold bracelet Jason gave her for Christmas, a week before he died, she added: "I loved my son. He was only a baby and he had everything going for him."

Mrs McGowan said the family had been given renewed hope from their meeting withDeputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, the head of Scotland Yard's race and violent crime task force, who is advising the police in Telford.

"We feel he will do something. We know he will investigate the evidence thoroughly. If 50 people come forward, he will investigate 50 claims. He might not get anything from them but he will look into all of them."

Jason's widow, Sinead, 23, to whom he had been married only a matter of months, agreed. "We know it is being looked into seriously now. Before I had no confidence whatsoever but now I feel happier about it." She is reticent about her loss. "I have good days and bad days when I get upset. It's just starting to sink in."

The three women, with the other members of the extended but close family, have clung together to alleviate their grief. "Sometimes I stand there by his [Harold's] grave and talk to him like I am waiting for answers," said Ms Buttery.

Bringing up the children alone while grieving had taken its toll. "I have lost two stone and I have been going to counselling but it doesn't seem to do very much good. Sometimes I feel like I'm going down and down," she said quietly.

She too has put her faith in Mr Grieve. "I just hope that this time the investigators do a proper job. I still can't get my head around the fact that Errol is dead. I just miss him."