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Tuesday, December 9, 1997 Published at 21:24 GMT


'We're sorry', police tell murder victims' parents
image: [ Police at first tought the deaths were due to solvent abuse ]
Police at first tought the deaths were due to solvent abuse

Northumbria Police have apologised to the families of three murdered schoolboys for initially saying they died of solvent abuse.

Thomas Kelly, 18, David Hanson, 15, and David Grieff, 15, died within four months of each other.

Two were found suffocated and partially-burned in allotment sheds near their homes in Sunderland. The third was discovered in a disused guest house less than two miles away. Cans of lighter fuel and glue were found beside the bodies.

[ image: Alan Oliver:
Alan Oliver: "We are sorry"
Northumbria Police said at the time of the killings four years ago that the three had died as a result of a new solvent-sniffing craze.

But the teenagers' parents were convinced they were murdered.

It was eight months before the case was reviewed and it emerged that all three teenagers had been strangled.

The killer, Stephen Grieveson, was given three life sentences in 1996.

The parents put 62 concerns and questions before the Police Complaints Authority.

A report by the authority has concluded that the police were insensitive in their dealings with the families.

Alan Oliver, the Assistant Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, made an apology to the families, saying they had not received the quality of service they deserved.

[ image: Clare Routledge says the matter is now closed]
Clare Routledge says the matter is now closed
Solicitor Clare Routledge said the investigation report and apology now closed the whole affair.

"They are very relieved to have this unequivocal apology. From the beginning all they wanted to establish was these were everyday boys who did everyday things, not criminals and not drug or solvent abusers," she said.

David Grieff's mother Janet said: "As far as the apology goes this is the matter finished. This is what we wanted. We all feel relieved."

Thomas Kelly's motherJudy Kelly said: "Because of those comments we have found ourselves defending our sons. Anyone who knew them knew what they were like."

But the parents of David Hanson said they still believed the original police investigation had been flawed, allowing the killer to murder again.

The BBC's John Thorne reports on the case
The Assistant Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, Alan Oliver, explains why he apologised

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