Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Friday, 14 December 2007

Rhys family's 'empty Christmas'

Rhys Jones
The 11-year-old was shot as he walked home from football practice

The family of murdered schoolboy Rhys Jones have spoken about the heartbreak of preparing for their first Christmas without the 11-year-old.

Rhys' father Stephen, 44, and mother Melanie, 41, said: "This year Christmas will be an empty experience for us."

The youngster was shot dead in Croxteth, Liverpool, as he returned home from football practice.

In a tribute to Rhys, his family admitted: "Our lives, not just Christmas, will never be the same".

Nobody has been charged with the murder, which happened in August, despite a high-profile police investigation and 18 arrests.

Detectives are investigating a theory the bullet was fired by a teenage gang member aiming for a rival.

But four months since Mrs Jones cradled her dying son in her arms in the Fir Tree pub car park, she, her husband and Rhys' brother Owen, 17, said they are still trying to come to terms with their loss.

Melanie and Stephen Jones
Rhys' parents Stephen and Melanie Jones

The Jones family added: "Just contemplating Christmas this year is difficult.

"It's certainly going to be a quiet Christmas and we just don't know how we're going to face waking up on Christmas morning knowing that Rhys isn't going to be there to rip off the wrapping paper from his presents, posing for the video as we proudly record the events throughout the day.

"Our lives have always revolved around our children and we know we need to be there for Owen, life can't stop. But the loss of Rhys has left a huge, empty void, that can never be filled. "

The Jones' have recalled memories of previous Christmases when Rhys delivered presents to his friends before he and his relatives enjoyed a huge dinner together.

The youngster has also been described as "the life and soul of the Christmas party".

In memory of his son Mr Jones has written a poem about the schoolboy's life and death.

How can they carry on getting ready to celebrate and not think about Rhys?
Rhys' Jones family on their son's killer

Despite remembering happier times, Rhys' family said Christmas has forced them to think about the person "who fired the shot that killed Rhys" and hoped that he would do the right thing.

Mr and Mrs Jones have previously made appeals to the killer to come forward, but without success.

The family added: "Will he think about Rhys and the devastation he has caused? And those close to him, who know what he has done - how will they be celebrating? How can they carry on getting ready to celebrate and not think about Rhys?

"Surely, they must realise the enormity of what has happened here. They must realise that our family has been left devastated following the death of our 11-year-old son and brother."

There have been appeals for information from a woman driving a red car who nearly hit a youth, thought to be the gunman, as he cycled in front of her car shortly after the shooting.

Two BBC Crimewatch appeals, including a reconstruction of the shooting, leaflet drops, phone messaging and billboard adverts have been made in Croxteth in an effort to identify the cyclist.

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