Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 06:24 UK

Rhys Jones parents 'overwhelmed' by support after death

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

When 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot dead in August 2007, his parents Melanie and Stephen could not accept that he was gone.

The Everton-mad youngster was walking home from football training when he was shot in the neck, minutes away from his Croxteth Park house.

"I don't remember seeing any wounds," said Mrs Jones, who raced to the scene and cradled her son as he died.

"All I remember is getting hold of him and talking to him, pleading with him to stay with me.

"I don't know whether it was comforting thing to know that I was with him when he died or not, because he died in such a horrendous way

"I know I was there with him, and I know I was willing him to live and I did everything that I could."

Reading those letters gave us so much comfort, that we weren't on our own
Stephen Jones

In the days, weeks and months after Rhys's death Mr and Mrs Jones received thousands of letters from around the world.

And as they struggled to come to terms with the fact Rhys was gone, they have revealed to the BBC that it was this "overwhelming" support that gave them comfort.

"They were sharing their outrage at what had gone on," Stephen Jones said.

"The fact that an 11-year-old boy can be gunned down in broad daylight on a car park going about his normal business.

"Reading those letters gave us so much comfort, that we weren't on our own - there were people who were out there just giving us that support."

'Not coming back'

Now Rhys's parents are hoping to build a community centre in their son's name.

The Rhys Jones Memorial Fund is attempting to raise £1.5m towards the Croxteth facility, which will include a sports hall, badminton courts, an auditorium, cafe, youth centre and gym.

Planned for an area of grassland behind the shops at Langley Close, close to where Rhys was murdered, the project has given the Jones family a positive focus.

"It's very difficult because in the early says your heart's telling you he's still here, but your mind's telling you he's not," Mrs Jones said.

Melanie and Stephen Jones
Melanie and Stephen Jones describe support as "a huge comfort"

"When Rhys was buried we were going to the cemetery every day. We couldn't accept what had happened.

"We still felt he was here all the time and it took us a long time to realise that he wasn't here, and he wasn't coming back."

The letters. Strangers calling at their home. Nods in the street and pats on the back from strangers - all helped the Jones's realise the depth of feeling in the city.

"People don't know what to say but you know that they are there for you," Mrs Jones said.

But she added one of the biggest surprises and gestures of support came from Liverpool FC, and an invite to Anfield.

As committed Everton fans Mrs Jones said she was unsure of the reaction they would receive.

"When we got out the car in the car park all the fans started clapping, and as we were walking through they were all patting us on our backs and I thought, 'Oh my god'.

"I was just so overwhelmed, I thought it was amazing.

"I really felt like they put our arms around us. Liverpool or Everton - they are just one city. It was a huge comfort to me."

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