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Our lost boy; Rory Blackhall.

Byline: By JANE HAMILTON and RUSSELL FINDLAY

THE parents of murdered schoolboy Rory Blackhall broke down yesterday as they visited the woodland where his body was found.

Weeping mum Michelle and husband Russell were joined by Rory's brother Conal, 14, as they left flowers in memory of the 11-year-old.

Their emotional visit came as detectives released details of their prime suspect.

The murder squad want to question a gaunt, pale-faced man wearing a hunting hat seen emerging from woods the day before the Livingston schoolboy went missing.

Their appeal came at a lunchtime press conference less than two hours after Rory's family visited the spot - still surrounded by police tape - where his body was found.

Michelle and Russell, who separated a few months ago, stopped to read the messages on the rows of floral tributes left by friends and locals.

The family, who agreed to their visit being photographed, laid their own tribute - a bunch of thistles and lavender, tied with a tartan ribbon.

The note read: "Rory Pory, you are always with us in our thoughts and in our hearts. Our wee Rory we love you."

Rory failed to turn up at Meldrum Primary School last Thursday and his body was found three days later in nearby woods.

A post-mortem examination showed he had been asphyxiated. Police refused to confirm speculation that he may have been drugged or been alive for two days after being reported missing.

Officers yesterday stepped up the hunt for the suspicious man seen near Rory's school, saying he could be vital to their inquiries.

A witness came forward to say he had seen the man emerging from a small clearing in woods in the town's Westwood Park, known locally as The Jenny, behind Rory's school at 8.30am on the day before the youngster's disappearance.

The small clearing, at an electricity sub-station, is not far from where the body of the 11-year-old was found last Sunday.

Tragic Rory was last seen being dropped off near the school by his mother, Michelle, on the first day of term.

Police say the man's behaviour was odd and had alarmed the witness.

The man was seen by a local dad who was walking a child to school. He told police he had never seen him before.

DI Tom Martin said: "He appeared to be completely out of place for the area and the witness was actually concerned about his presence there.

"The witness' attention was drawn to rustling in the wooded area at the side of the pathway and a man emerged from the bushes and trees beside him, near to the sub-station.

"The man had to push aside some large bushes to exit the wood. He was aged between 38 to 40, 5ft 8in tall with a gaunt, very pale appearance. He had quite a pointed nose and had light or grey stubble on his chin.

"The man was unaccompanied, was not walking a dog and was not seen to be carrying anything."

On Friday, detectives issued an appeal to trace five men seen in the area around the time of Rory's disappearance.

Four have since been identified but police are desperate to find the man seen wearing a distinctive black or dark green fur-lined hunting cap, with earflaps that can be clipped over the head .

When the man was seen, the flaps covered much of his face. He was also wearing a black nylon bomber jacket and black jeans.

It is understood the witness gave a detailed description of what the man was wearing to police artists.

A police insider said: "The witness was concerned about the actions of this man before news of Rory's disappearance.

"We believe this information to be reliable and potentially of great significance."

DI Martin staged an appeal for information yesterday afternoon at the town's Almondvale football stadium.

He said: "Following our appeals on Friday we have now identified the two males drinking beer on Nellburn Path on the day Rory was last seen and the two males at the camp-fire on Dechmont Law last Saturday.

"However, we have no calls or information at all regarding the sighting of the man exiting the woods near to where Rory was last seen.

"Consequently we are increasingly anxious to establish the identity of this man."

The area with the small sub-station is directly off a path behind Rory's school. It is possible to step off the path into a small clearing where the small grey sub-station sits.

The tiny clearing, barely 12ft across, is littered with rubbish and overgrown weeds.

DI Martin said: "The witness routinely uses this path to walk his child to school and has never seen this man before. He made no attempt to acknowledge the witness, which he also regarded as unusual for people in that area.

"The witness thought this was particularly unusual, given the weather conditions at the time.

"It should be borne in mind that whilst this witness saw the man with the flap on the hat pulled down, others may have seen the man with the hat fastened in the upright position"The man was last seen walking towards the underpass at East Deans Road."

Yesterday, Rory's grandfather also paid an emotional visit to the spot where the youngster's body was found.

Michael Robertson, accompanied by his wife and other relatives, broke down and sobbed at the scene.

The grieving grandad raised the alarm when he arrived to collect Rory from school on the day he disappeared.

The family spent five minutes reading the hundreds of messages of condolences from the public.

They left their own bouquet of yellow tulips and a card which read: "Part of the world is missing, part of my heart is too, part of the light is darkness because we have all lost you.

"Love you to pieces darling Rory. Your best pals Gran and Grandad and Dama. Kiss, kiss".

Hundreds of flowers and cuddly toys were building up at the side of the wooded area.

Around 800 calls have been made to police since the murder investigation began early on Tuesday morning

CAPTION(S):

Overcome with grief: Michelle; Russell and Conal leave their tribute to 11-year-old Rory; Poignant: Family's heartfelt tribute; Suspect's clothes: He wore black nylon bomber jacket and ear-flap hat; Public appeal: DI Tom Martin with distinctive hunting hat; Family anguish: Weeping Michelle has to be supported by son Conal and husband Russell as they visit the spot where Rory's body was found
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 28, 2005
Words:1077
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