Police release pair in probe into death of disabled man

Police investigating the deaths of a severely disabled man and his mother have released two people without charge.

James Hughes, 22, was found dead less than 48 hours after the body of his mother, Heather Wardle, was discovered in woodland near their home in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Detectives quizzed a man, understood to be Wardle’s partner, Brian Kirby, and a youth on suspicion of James’s murder, but released them last Friday after two days in custody.

The disabled man had the mental age of an 18-month-old and suffered from several illnesses, including epilepsy. He could walk only short distances and relied on a wheelchair.

His body, which was found on 23 April at his family’s home, was so badly decomposed it had to be identified from dental records. Police said it had been placed in a suitcase which was hidden in the back garden.

Wardle was found hanged in woodland a mile away from the home on 21 April.

Main carer 
The 39-year-old was the main carer for James, and looked after him and her three other sons aged between six and 18 with Kirby.

James’s father, Paul, described his son as “the most beautiful of Mother Earth’s creations”.

Supt Jane Horwood, of West Mercia Police, who is leading the inquiry, said: “This is without doubt one of the saddest cases West Mercia Constabulary has dealt with and the events have left residents shocked.”

Police are still treating Wardle’s death as unexplained, while a post-mortem examination on James proved inconclusive. They are awaiting further test results on James’s body, which could take “some weeks”.

Forensic officers continue to scour the family’s home for clues.

Supt Horwood spoke out against coverage of the deaths in the national media, which included theories on how the disabled man died. She said “any further speculation” could hinder the investigation or “cause distress to the family”.

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