FRIENDS and neighbours of ‘gentleman’ Alan Greaves - murdered on his way to play the church organ - say the kindly grandfather ‘never saw wrong in anybody’.
Neighbour Malcolm Cooper, aged 68, said: “He was a big church man, always doing something for somebody.
“He and his wife Maureen were always up and down the road to the church or the charity project they were involved with – they always put others before themselves.
“That is what he was doing on the night he was attacked, giving his time to play the organ at church. It’s such a tragedy.
“The world would be a better place if there were more people like Alan in it.
“He never saw the wrong in anyone but unfortunately there are people out there who will do things like this.”
His wife Shirley Cooper, 65, added: “We are absolutely heartbroken. He was a wonderful, wonderful gentleman. He always saw the good in everyone, just like his wife does.”
Flowers have been placed at the spot Mr Greaves’ body was found, near railings on the edge of a park opposite Greengate Lane Primary School.
Canon Simon Bessant, of St Saviours CofE Church, described the attack on former social worker Mr Greaves as ‘evil’.
“It was a senseless and wicked event,” he said.
“What has been deeply shocking is the severity of the violence. It is hard to understand how such a thing could happen.
“Alan was a teddy bear, a grandfather figure, and it appears this was a random, senseless killing.”
Canon Bessant said he spent Christmas Day with Mr Greaves’ family, whose wife Maureen is ‘emotionally and physically exhausted’ by the tragedy.
He said the couple, both retired social workers, were soulmates who ‘knew they would marry the day they met’.
He described them as ‘incredibly close’.
Canon Bessant revealed the couple’s two grandchildren - three-year-old orphaned twins adopted by their daughter, who works on an education project in Mozambique - had flown to Britain to spend Christmas with them.
“There was to be a big family get-together on Christmas Day,” he said.
“They were both really excited that the children were here, as they only see them once a year. Thankfully the children are too young to understand what has happened.”
Mr Greaves was a lay preacher as well as a church organist and primary school pianist, and his wife Maureen is a Church Army evangelist.
The couple were instrumental in setting up a community project which opened at the beginning of December to offer food and clothing to disadvantaged people.
Canon Bessant said: “Alan lived to serve. His family want justice for his death but they do not want vengeance.”
Church Army Chief Executive, Mark Russell, said: “All of us are devastated and shocked. We would like to assure Maureen and the family of our love, support and prayers.”
Alfred Rogers, 86, who lives in sheltered accommodation close to where Mr Greaves was attacked, said: “Things like this are why I don’t go out at night.
“If they ever catch the person who did this they need to be charged with murder, not manslaughter, because if you use violence against somebody to hurt them you know what could happen and you need to accept the consequences.”
Ken Jaques, 72, added: “Drink or drugs have to have been involved - I can’t imagine why anyone not under the influence would want to do something like this just for the hell of it.
“The punishment has to fit the crime – whoever did this needs to spend the rest of their life in prison.”