VIDEO - Widow’s grace as pair learn fate

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The widow of a murdered church organist has forgiven his killers - but says it was the hardest thing she has ever done.

Maureen Greaves wept in the public gallery at Sheffield Crown Court after Ashley Foster of High Green, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Alan Greaves, 68.

Jonathan Bowling, of Pitsmoor, had already admitted Mr Greaves’ murder.

Foster and Bowling, both aged 22, were due to be sentenced this morning for the horrific attack which left church organist Alan Greaves with ‘unsurvivable’ head injuries.

Today, Mr Greaves’ widow Maureen, a mother of four and former social worker, said she was determined to forgive her husband’s killers – as it was what he would have wanted.

She said: “Apart from losing Alan, forgiving them is the hardest thing I have done in my life, but God has enabled me to keep to it.”

Speaking at her home in High Green, Mrs Greaves, aged 64, recalled sitting by her battered husband’s bedside on Christmas Day, holding his hand as his life ebbed away.

“My thoughts and feelings turned to the people who had done this to Alan,” she said.

“I looked at Alan and I thought if he could speak to me now he’d be saying ‘come on Maureen, I know you can forgive them,’ and I wanted to do it.”

Foster was found guilty of killing Mr Greaves following a three week trial at Sheffield Crown Court.

He denied attacking the 68-year-old, but admitted being with Jonathan Bowling when Bowling struck Mr Greaves on the head with a pick-axe handle.

Foster claimed he was yards away in Mortomley Park and tried to stop the attack by shouting ‘no’.

But Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, told jurors that on the night of the killing Foster and Bowling had been out stalking the streets of High Green together looking for someone to attack.

Mr Smith said had they not attacked Mr Greaves, they would have targeted someone else.

He said they acted together and used a pick-axe handle and another weapon, possibly a clawhammer, to shatter Mr Greaves’ skull.

The prosecution said, at the least, Foster encouraged Bowling while he beat Mr Greaves to death. Foster claimed he did not tell the police because he was scared of Bowling.

In chaotic scenes there were cheers from Foster’s family when the jury foreman declared him not guilty of murder yesterday – before she added ‘but guilty of manslaughter’.

Foster’s girlfriend Natalie Evers, the mother of his two sons, fled court screaming as he held his head in his hands.

Bowling had already admitted the murder of Mr Greaves, who died in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital on December 27.

The jury heard Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green, and Bowling, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, had been drinking when they left a family gathering at 9.30pm on Christmas Eve.

They had known each other since their teens, when Bowling’s father was in a relationship with Foster’s mother.

Mr Greaves left home just after 11pm for the 10-minute walk to St Saviour’s Church. He returned home for his hat because he was cold - putting him on a collision course with his killers.

His bleeding and battered body was found at 11.30pm.

Dr Neil Stoodley, a consultant neuro-radiologist said Mr Greaves’ injuries were caused using ‘very major degrees of force’.

Pathologist Dr Charles Wilson said Mr Greaves’ head injuries were similar to those he would expect to see in road collisions, or in someone who had fallen from a high building.

Outside court, Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who led the murder hunt, said: “Alan Greaves suffered an appalling, extremely violent and totally unprovoked attack as he walked to church.

“In a matter of minutes Bowling and Foster had left an innocent man for dead.

“My thoughts today are reserved for Alan’s widow Maureen and her family, who have displayed great strength and dignity in such ghastly circumstances .

“I can only hope the verdict will bring some small solace to them as they come to terms with losing Alan in such tragic circumstances.”

Mrs Greaves said: “Society needs protecting from people who do such evil acts and I am satisfied and relieved by the result of the court. However, no sentence will bring Alan back.

“Alan was a wonderful man who is so dearly missed. Our lives will never be the same again.”