Detectives hunting the killer of a grandfather attacked on Christmas Eve on his way to play the organ at his church’s Midnight Mass said he was a good man whose life was ended by an evil act.
Alan Greaves, 68, was on his way to St Saviour’s Church service in High Green, Sheffield, where he was a lay preacher, when he was attacked and left with a life-threatening head injury in the street.
Despite four hours of surgery, the father-of-four lost his fight for life on Thursday evening in the Northern General Hospital with his family praying at his bedside.
As those who knew Mr Greaves, described as a “gentle soul,” paid tribute to the retired social worker yesterday, police appealed for help to find his killer.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick said: “This was an elderly man just going about his business on Christmas Eve and suffered what appears to be an unprovoked and random attack, which ended his life.
“Think about the family Christmas you may have just had. Alan’s family were looking forward to spending Christmas together but instead, they were distraught with their father and grandfather fighting for his life and now trying to come to terms with his death.”
Mr Greaves, who was described as “a teddy bear of a grandfather”, by Canon Simon Bessant, from St Saviour’s, had left his home in High Green at around 11pm on Christmas Eve and was walking alone the short distance to the church on Mortomley Lane.
He was found by a pizza delivery driver 15 minutes later, collapsed and in a critical condition, on the path outside a primary school on Greengate Lane close to his home and was rushed to hospital.
Det Supt Fenwick said: “At 11pm on Christmas Eve Mr Greaves left his house and walked towards the nearby church where he performs as an organist.
“Between his house and that location he was subjected to the brutal attack. At 11.15pm a member of the public found Mr Greaves and called the emergency services.
“He was a family man and the family are devastated about what has taken place. I would like to appeal on their behalf and on my behalf for anyone who might have witnessed any part of this incident or anyone who has information that could assist this investigation to please contact us.”
Mr Greaves, who had recently become a grandfather, was described as a highly respected member of the community.
Det Supt Fenwick, said: “At this moment in time the motive behind the attack is very unclear. We cannot think of a motive why anyone would choose to attack Mr Greaves. Any assistance from the local community would be greatly appreciated.”
He said that robbery was a possibility but added he was not aware of anything missing from Mr Greaves.
Railings near to the spot where Mr Greaves was found have been taken away for examination and police are trying to recover CCTV from shops and homes in the area.
“We have had a number of witnesses come forward and a significant response from the local community,” said Det Supt Fenwick.
“I think people in the local community are genuinely appalled by what has taken place. We have tried to establish anybody who could have been in the locality at that time.”
Police have not found a weapon but Det Supt Fenwick said that looking at the injuries Mr Greaves sustained it was “quite possible” a weapon had been used.
He added: “It is quite possible that Mr Greaves was attacked by one person or a number of people. It is about keeping an open mind. This individual could come from the local community or could come from further afield.”
Mr Bessant said: “He was simply a good man and this was an evil act.”
Anyone with information should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 quoting incident number 1183 of 24 December.
Tributes paid after tragic death of gentle giant: Page 5.