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Monday, 24 December, 2001, 16:08 GMT
Paedophile suspect 'killed by vigilantes'
George Crawford and guide dog Alf
George Crawford died of severe head injuries
A suspected paedophile awaiting trial may have been killed in a vigilante attack, according to police.

Detective Superintendent Andy Tattersall said George Crawford, 64, was facing 10 counts of child abuse and "it may be that someone has taken the law into their own hands".

Mr Crawford, who was partially blind, died after suffering severe head injuries during the attack at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on Friday.

He denied abusing four boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s and planned to plead not guilty when he appeared before magistrates next month.

Police said Mr Crawford, who was discovered by his wife, Brenda, and guide dog, Alf, had no previous sex abuse convictions.

No weapon found

Mr Tattersall said the four men who made the sex abuse allegations had been spoken to by the police.

I know the police are saying it could have been any number of reasons but I think he was killed because of this trial

Roy Crawford
"The motive could well be related to the sex charges against George," he said.

"That cannot be allowed to happen in this country.

"George denied the charges and it would have been up to the crown court to decide."

Mr Tattersall said he believed the killer or killers came from the Kirkholt estate, where Mr Crawford lived.

No weapon has been recovered and no sign of forced entry to the bungalow was found, suggesting it was possible Mr Crawford knew his killers.

Low profile

Mr Crawford's brother, Roy, said he was sure the attacks were linked to the sex abuse allegations.

He said Mr Crawford had "locked himself away" after becoming too scared to go outside after being charged with child abuse.

Roy Crawford said neighbours on the estate had shouted verbal abuse and added: "I know the police are saying it could have been any number of reasons but I think he was killed because of this trial.

"It is just too much of a coincidence to be any other way."

Staff at the Kirkholt Working Men's Club, where Mr Crawford had been a regular, said he had kept a low profile since he was charged.

Stewardess Brenda Simmons said: "People are not talking much about it just yet but let's say there are mixed feelings here.

"There are some who think that only a court can decide whether someone is guilty and there are some who say if you're involved in that then you've got it coming."

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