The heartbroken family of a Sunderland dad wrongly charged with his son's murder - and who died without knowing the real killer had been handed a life sentence - have made an emotional plea for help with his funeral costs.
As reported by the Sunderland Echo on Saturday, Robert Frederick Stacey, better known as Freddie, sadly passed away on Thursday night, aged just 66, in hospital surrounded by his distraught family.
Freddie's son Scott Pritchard, 19, was found murdered outside his Hendon home in January 2004. He had suffered extensive head injuries and police launched a hunt for his killer.
But a year on, with Scott's murderer still at large, police suspicions turned to his dad and Freddie was later charged with his son's murder.
Although the case was later dropped in court, an innocent Freddie still spent 16 weeks in prison locked up for 23 hours each day.
Last week, Scott's killer Karen Tunmore was given a life sentence at Newcastle Crown Court, having confessed to his murder earlier this summer.
But, as he lay in a hospital bed clinging on to life, Freddie was completely unaware and never got to see justice served and his own name finally cleared.
Years of heavy drinking took their toll on the devastated dad and grandad which he was driven to, his family say, after losing his son, but also by being branded his killer.
Now his devastated family are hoping the public will rally round and help with funeral costs and help provide Freddie with a decent send-off after a Go Fund Me page was set up.
Daughter Charlie Hellens, 30, said: "Dad's death has hit everyone really hard.
"It has been a very difficult time for all of the family, with Scott's murder being back in the news and the heartbreak of what has happened to dad, who never got over what happened to his son and being wrongly accused of doing it when he had nothing to do with it.
"It has affected everyone badly and we are appealing for help at this time. Anything anyone can offer, no matter how little, will be massively appreciated."
READ MORE: Family's emotional tribute to 'one in a million' Scott
Freddie spent seven weeks in a bail hostel among drug addicts before the charges were finally dismissed.
But in his community, the stigma never went away.
How Scott's murder tore family apart
Charlie - speaking to the Echo with her sisters Aimee Stacey, 34, and Kimberley Pratt, 37 - revealed: "The windows were put out, he was spat at and called a 'murdering b*****d'. He lived in fear each day. He was never the same person.
"He just went into himself. He began drinking all the time. He moved out of Sunderland for a while and out of Hendon altogether. Family and friends deserted him. But some stuck by him.
"But it tortured him. As the years went on it got worse not better."
See moment Karen Tunmore walks into police station to confess to Scott Pritchard's murder
Freddie was rushed to hospital after collapsing in Barclays Bank in Sunderland city centre on September 26.
He was transferred to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital where surgeons battled to repair his body from the damage that had been done to his liver and from a heart attack.
He survived the surgery, but was placed in an induced coma in the hope he could recover.
He was taken back to Sunderland Royal and his daughters kept a bedside vigil hoping for a miracle - but he never regained consciousness.
READ MORE: Top cop's message to Scott's family as his murderer is finally jailed
Tunmore was given a life sentence and told she must serve at least 17-and-a-half years in jail.
But Charlie added: "She took Scott’s life without a second thought and she hid it for 14 years.
"She destroyed our family and inflicted a life sentence on an innocent man. She not only killed Scott, but she has my dad’s blood on her hands."
The fundraising page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/freddy-stacey-funeral