Heartbroken parents pay tribute to son whose death remains a mystery
The heartbroken parents of a 20-year-old man have paid tribute to their 'popular' son - as the circumstances around his death remain a mystery following an inquest.
Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique returned an open conclusion on Craig Rushton who died after suffering stab wounds to the neck.
The former warehouse operative was found by a member of the public in an alleyway off George Avenue, in Blackheath, near Rowley Regis, just after midnight on November 18 - a short distance from his home on Britannia Road.
An inquest failed to establish whether Mr Rushton's fatal injuries were self-inflicted or an attack by a third party.
Paying tribute to her beloved son, who had attended Leasowes High School, Halesowen, Mr Rushton's mother Susan said: "He was very popular at school. A lot of people turned up for his funeral."
His father David added: "He was a quiet lad. Craig was shy with people who he didn't know, until he got to know them, then he came out of his shell. He was a nice lad."
Mr Rushton was learning to drive and had been looking forward to Christmas and a family holiday abroad.
His family rejected the idea Mr Rushton committed suicide because they said it was out of character.
His body was discovered at 12.16am in the alleyway by a passer-by who called 999.
Mrs Rushton last saw her son just hours earlier at their home around 10.30pm.
He left behind his phone and wallet but took his driving licence - which police used to identify him.
A knife was discovered next to his body alongside a pool of blood.
Detectives said his death was more likely caused by self-inflicted wounds following a police probe which included forensic examinations.
The court heard his cause of death was two stab wounds to his neck.
CCTV captured a lone figure walking up the alleyway - believed to be Mr Rushton - before his body was discovered.
Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield, from West Midlands Police's homicide team, said: "At 10.58pm a single figure is seen walking into alleyway where Craig was found. Due to the distance we haven't been able to identify Craig. But there was no other people (who followed him)."
A knife had gone missing from the family home around the time of Mr Rushton's disappearance, said the detective.
However it emerged that the knife found by Mr Rushton's body was different to the one which had gone missing, after his mother examined a police photograph at court.
Detective Corfield told the court that Mr Rushton had been in contact with a drug dealer the day before about buying some 'lemon haze', which is a type of cannabis.
Messages on his Facebook account showed that he had discussed taking drugs. She said. "On several chats he mentions about being bored with life."
She added: "In these circumstances it is unusual for a suicide. It is even more unusual for a homicide."
Mr Siddique said: "It is not clear from the evidence whether this was self-inflicted however that does seem likely - or a third party. For this reason I will return an open conclusion."
He added: "I would like to offer my deepest condolences to Craig's family."
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