'Our dad's blood is also on your hands': Scott Pritchard's family reveal Freddie Stacey - wrongly accused of his son's murder - died without seeing killer Karen Tunmore punished
"You killed our brother, but our dad's blood is also on your hands."
That was the stark message from the sister of murder victim Scott Pritchard to his killer just hours after watching her dad lose his fight for life.
Robert Frederick Stacey, better known as Freddie, sadly passed away on Thursday night in hospital surrounded by his distraught family. He was 66.
And daughter Charlie Hellens also raged: "We’ll never forgive the police for what they did. He never got over Scott’s death, but being blamed and locked up accused of his murder just killed him."
Just three days before as he clung to life he opened his eyes once from his induced coma and cried.
On that day, a few miles away, Karen Tunmore was finally jailed for life for Scott’s brutal murder - 14 years after she bludgeoned him to death with a baseball bat.But he 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.
19-year-old Scott was found murdered outside his his Hendon home in January 2004. He had suffered extensive head injuries and police launched a hunt for his killer.
But a year later, with the killer at large, police suspicions turned to his dad.
"On the day he was charged I went with him to the police station. He was just being asked some questions. I just sat in the reception and then a policeman came out and gave me his keys and a few things and said: 'Your dad’s been charged with murder'.
"I was just numb, I was sixteen and I was told that. I had nowhere to go. He was my dad. I couldn’t believe this was happening. We knew he had nothing to do with Scott’s murder, but no one would listen."
Completely innocent, Freddie spent 16 weeks in prison locked up for 23 hours each day.
Charlie said: "We visited him every week. We kept trying to tell him to keep going and the truth would come out. But we could see what it was doing to him."
Freddie then 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 apartCharlie added: "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."
On August 3 this year, Northumbria Police announced they had charged a woman with Scott’s murder.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
A few days earlier, on July 31, football coach Karen Tunmore, 36, walked into Middle Engine Lane police station and confessed to the crime.
Charlie - speaking to the Echo with her sisters Aimee Stacey, 34, and Kimberley Pratt, 37 - added: "We read it on the Echo’s website. We just couldn’t believe it. The police had been trying to get hold of my dad, but they couldn’t get hold of him.
"We just thought finally it will be justice for Scott and finally my dad will be free - but he wasn’t. It just brought everything back. He began to ]binge drink heavily. It just spiralled out of control since August."
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.
"That day my dad had opened his eyes a little and when he saw us he cried. He never knew anything about what happened in court and we didn’t say anything about it. We just wanted him to keep fighting, but he had nothing left."
Tunmore was given a life sentence and told she must serve at least 17-and-a-half years in jail.
Newcastle Crown Court heard, after trying to take her own life in July, Tunmore had told a colleague "I've killed somebody" and made a full confession.
When she was charged over tragic Scott's death she told detectives: "Tell his family I am sorry".
Prosecutor Jolyon Perks told the court Tunmore said on the night of the killing she and a man she refused to name, but who was referred to as "X" in court, had confronted Scott in the street over a £200 debt, of which she was owed £120.
See moment Karen Tunmore walks into police station to confess to Scott Pritchard's murderTunmore told police she "saw red" when Scott said he had no money and had lashed out with a baseball bat after he had laughed at her threats.
Mr Perks said: "She said he had become lippy, cheeky.
"She said she had 'seen red' and hit him on the head with the baseball bat then struck him a further twice once he had fallen to the ground."
Tunmore said she had thought about what she had done to Scott 'every single day'.
But Charlie said: "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."
Detective Chief Inspector John Bent, of Northumbria Police, said: "Our sincere condolences go to the family of Fred Stacey who are faced with the devastating news of his death just days after his son’s killer was brought to justice.
"We will continue to offer our support to the family."