A top cop told the grieving family of tragic Sunderland dad Freddie Stacey he should never have been charged for his son’s murder, his daughters have claimed.
Detective Chief Inspector John Bent, of Northumbria Police, visited Freddie’s family to issue a personal apology on behalf of the force.
But his distraught daughters today told the Echo: "It’s too little too late!"
And they reacted with fury after claiming a family liaison officer suggested a charity could offer cash for the funeral, adding: “It was just insult to injury.”
Robert Frederick Stacey, 66, known as Freddie, passed away last week having never seen his son's killer finally jailed.
Karen Tunmore was caged for a minimum of 17-and-a-half years after walking into a police station and confessing she had bludgeoned Scott Pritchard to death with a baseball bat.
The 19-year-old was found murdered outside his Hendon home in 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.
He then turned to drinking having never getting over his son’s murder and being branded his killer for 14 years - which his family say ultimately claimed his life.
This week, Ch Insp Bent went to the family's Sunderland home to speak to Freddie's daughters Charlie Hellens, 30, Aimee Stacey, 34 and Kimberley Pratt, 37..
Charlie said: "He said he was sorry. He apologised on behalf of the police. He said he had reviewed all the files personally and he said if he had been investigating at the time he would never have arrested or charged my dad.
"It was little comfort and if my dad had heard it he might have gotten some closure. But the fact is he died never hearing the apology - it’s just too little too late.
"I asked him if he had any idea what my dad had gone through in those years. He said he could only imagine and he listened to us. But it’s an apology we just can’t accept."
READ MORE: Murder cop's message to Scott's family as killer finally jailed
The family had hoped to get some support for the funeral from Northumbria Police - but were left disappointed.
And then, they claim, further insult followed when it was suggested they could be put in touch with a charity which could pay for the funeral.
Charlie added: "Chf Insp Bent said he had contacted the Ministry of Justice about getting help for the funeral given all that had happened, but they said no because it had happened too long ago. Then the family liaison officer offered us a number for a charity that pays for funerals.
"We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. After all he had gone through, all they had put him through and they think he should get a pauper’s funeral. It was just so insensitive.
"My dad deserves a proper send off. And that’s what we will make sure he gets whether they help him or not."
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Our sincere condolences go to the family of Mr Stacey at this extremely difficult time.
"The historic decision to arrest him was made with the information available at the time and subsequent decision to charge was made in conjunction with the independent Crown Prosecution Service.
"We remain committed to working with the family to offer appropriate support and also put them in touch with partners who may be able to offer further help."
The community has already rallied behind a £5,000 fundraising drive from the family to pay for Freddie’s final send off which is set to take place next Thursday.
The fund has reached around £750. Anyone who wished to help can click on the fundraising page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/freddy-stacey-funeral
Freddie’s funeral service will be held on Thursday, October 18, at St Ignatius' Church in Hendon at 12.30pm for a 12.45pm start.
It will be followed by a send off at Sunderland Crematorium at 1.30pm and a wake at the Sinatra's in Holmeside, Sunderland.
There will be family flowers only.