HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a nine-year-old boy from Yorkshire who died in a fall while on holiday in the Far East with his mother.
Friends of Matthew Hamer, who lived in York, have spoken of their shock after learning of the accident at a hotel where he was staying in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
Both his parents, Professor Jane Hill and Dr Keith Hamer, are respected academics at two of the country’s leading universities which are based in the region.
Prof Hill, who is the associate head of department in the Department of Biology at York University, and Dr Hill, who is a member of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at Leeds University, are both understood to still be in Malaysia.
Matthew was a popular member of an under-nines team at Ovington Cricket Club, which was formed in the late 1920s and plays on the Little Knavesmire park next to York Racecourse.
The team’s coach, Alan Fletcher, said: “It is devastating news. Matthew was a good member of the under-nines team, he had been with us for three years and he was a smashing young lad.
“He never got up to any mischief, he listened to what he was told and got on with it. He tried really hard with his cricket and showed talent on the pitch.”
Mr Fletcher revealed that the tragedy had left the young members of the club devastated as many had known Matthew through his three seasons there. But the exact details of Matthew’s death remain unclear, and Mr Fletcher admitted the club had been given “conflicting stories” about the events leading up to the tragedy.
He said that there was a suggestion the youngster had fallen from a window, while there were other reports that Matthew had been fatally injured in a fall from a fire escape.
Mr Fletcher added: “He was a very sensible boy. He was not the sort of lad who would mess around.
“He had played for the under-nines A team all this season and would be moving up to the under-11s team next season. He worked very hard at cricket. He was popular member of the team and really enjoyed playing.
“Nobody at the club can really believe it. Many of the boys knew who he was, the under-nines and under-11s trained on the same night.
“Everyone is upset about what’s happened. Of course on behalf of the club I would like to extend my condolences, we are devastated at this tragic event.”
Paul Burland, 46, who lives next door to the family in the desirable Bishophill area of York, paid a heartfelt tribute to Matthew and said the youngster was a close friend of his own two boys.
Mr Burland added: “We are going to miss him terribly. He was a lovely, friendly active boy. He was a close friend to our children, we are all very sad.”
Colleagues of Prof Hill at York University also spoke of their shock after learning of her son’s death.
Prof Hill, who graduated from Manchester University in 1982, has been working in York for the more than a decade after she joined as a lecturer in 2001 before rising through the ranks to become the associate head of department. She had previously held posts at Leeds University between 1994 and 1997, and also worked at Durham University, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Wales at Bangor.
The head of the Department of Biology at the university, Professor Deborah Smith, said: “It is with great sadness that we heard the news of Matthew’s tragic death. The thoughts of friends and colleagues in the Department of Biology and across the university are with Jane and Keith at this terribly difficult time.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed a British national had died in Kuala Lumpur, but said it could not provide further information because the death involved a child.