A mum who lost two children to brutal murders has spoken about the grief of her double heartbreak.

Within 22 months, Cathy Kelly, from Bootle near Liverpool, had two of her four children snatched away by savage killers.

Her mentally-ill daughter Susan Kelly was found dead in an alley off Blessington Road, Anfield on September 4, 2000.

Her throat was cut and her injuries suggested she had been brutally beaten. Susan had suffered 29 injuries, including a broken nose and jaw and six broken ribs.

In October 2002, Cathy's youngest child Michael Kelly was killed with an axe by his flatmate. He was then dismembered and dumped in the woods in the Midlands.

The killer, drug dealer Gerald Edwards, was convicted of murder and jailed for life. But Susan's killer has never been found.

Susan Kelly's body was found dumped in an alley with her throat cut

The 76-year-old mum opened up to the Liverpool Echo: "It's been a nightmare, it's been horrible. It's there all the time; it never goes away.

"If you were not here now I would probably be sitting here, watching the telly or staring outside at the trees, and all of a sudden I will see Michael's face or Susan's face.

"They say time is a healer but it never heals at all. You have to learn to live with it, because otherwise you would not be able to go on."

Susan Kelly

Susan was led a happy life up until the age of 24, according to Cathy.

She grew up in Litherland and dreamed of working with the disabled. After graduating from Mabel Fletcher College, she worked in a care home and behind the bar in a nightclub.

She later settled down with a boyfriend and in 1982, gave birth to a boy. But just a few years later, her boyfriend was jailed for drugs supply offences - and that was when Susan's life went downhill.

The woman struggled with mental health and the final straw appeared to be an attack in her flat by a group of gangsters looking for money or drugs believed to have been left by her partner.

Cathy said: "She came to me hysterical, screaming. From that day she was completely off her head.

"She had a hell of a time. Once (her boyfriend) went away she was left on her own and she had all these lads threatening her. She just broke down and she could not cope.

"I reckon that was the time she had a complete nervous breakdown."

Susan was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Cathy said her daughter would frequently go missing and become involved in violent relationships with men.

Social services then took her son into care.

In the years that followed, Susan got into trouble with the law, developed a drug addiction and had been known to occasionally engage in sex work.

Cathy said: "In the end her mind had completely gone, she didn't know her own name, where she lived, how old she was. She forgot her own son in the end, she could not remember anything."

The murder of Susan Kelly

On September 4, 2000, Cathy was told her daughter was murdered.

She said: "I had been the shops, I came home and I was just tidying round. I made a cup of tea and I was deciding what to have for my tea.

"I put on the TV and the news came on, a girl was found murdered in Anfield, a young woman found with her throat cut and police were making enquiries.

"Well I just though 'God help her' and didn't really think too much of it...

"The next thing there was a knock on the door and it was our Bill (Susan's brother) and his wife. I said 'oh hello, it's not like you to call this late.'

"He said 'sit down Mum'. I knew right away there was something wrong. He said 'have you been watching the telly?' I said 'yeah?'

Merseyside Police forensic in the alley off Blessington Road, Anfield where the body of Susan Kelly was found in 2000

"He said 'have you seen the news?' and as soon as he mentioned the news I knew. I said 'no, it wasn't her' and he said it was.

"One of the police officers had gone to school with them and he recognised Susan. I said 'oh no, God' and I just lost it, I just went to pieces."

Cathy had seen her daughter just two weeks before her death.

She recalled the last meeting: "One day she turned up, and I made her a cup of coffee and gave her a ciggie, and I said you can have a shower here if you want.

"She said 'I had a visitor last night mum, it was Jesus, he was in the TV. He told me I won't be alive when I'm 40, I have got to go to Jesus before I'm 40'.

"'When I held my hand out he would not take it, he shook his head, he said I have still got to do my mission."

Susan had often told her mum she had been given a mission, to tell other sex workers that Jesus would forgive them.

Cathy said: "So she had a shower, and she was going out of the door and she turned to me and said 'mum, I love you.'

"I said 'I love you too,' and she walked away but came back and said 'mum, I really do love you'. I gave her a hug, she stayed for a moment, and I said 'I will see you around, tara.

"The next time I saw her was on a slab."

Cathy lost her son two years after her daughter Susan was murdered

Details related to the murder

The day after Susan's body was found, Cathy went to the crime scene on Blessington Road, and struck up a conversation with a group of sex workers who were gathered nearby.

She said one was heavily pregnant, and told her that her son, aged around 12, had heard something in the early hours of the morning.

Cathy says she spoke to the boy: "He heard a load of women arguing, and women crying on the entry. The next thing a fella said 'you have just f****** seen her haven't you? That's what will happen to you if you don't keep your mouth shut."

Cathy said the boy appeared terrified and would not speak directly to the police, but detectives were told what he had said and made efforts to try and trace the women.

Despite a witness describing seeing two women crying on a bus, they have never been found.

Cathy says she never believed 20 years on Susan's death would remain unsolved, especially when a man was charged with murder in 2003.

A court heard Susan's throat was believed to have been cut with a piece of broken pottery, and the case against the suspect rested on a small fragment found at his flat.

Prosecutors also claimed some jewellery and a hair slide found at his flat belonged to Susan, and several Irish coins found at the scene matched some in the property.

However the case was dismissed before the end of a trial by order of the judge, Mr Justice Douglas Brown.

According to Echo reports from the time, an expert said he could not be 100% sure the fragment was from the same piece of pottery used to kill Susan, and bloody footprints found at the scene were too small for the defendant's feet.

Speaking after the acquittal in 2003, Detective Superintendent Peter Currie, who has since retired, said the case could re-open.

He said: "This was a very thorough  investigation over two and a half years.

"If any new lines of evidence or investigation come to light in the future we will obviously investigate it."

Theories

Since the end of that trial, there were further false dawns in 2010 and 2012, when two different men were arrested on suspicion of murder and questioned.

However Merseyside Police confirmed they were both released without charge and since then Cathy says she has heard nothing from the force.

With the case seemingly cold, Cathy is left with endless questions as to what really happened.

Cathy said she has questions about several people with links to Susan.

One, who knew Susan, had attacked her earlier on the day of her death according to a witness who later described it to Cathy.

The violent, unpredictable drug addict was, however, given an alibi by a notorious gangster who said the pair had been carrying out a robbery together at the time.

The person was later jailed for attacking sex workers in a series of violent robberies over the summer of 2000.

Cathy Kelly from Bootle

Notorious killer

Another theory links to the murder of Julie Finley, who was found strangled in a carrot field, off the St Helens bound carriageway of the Rainford by-pass, in Rainhill in 1994.

Witness accounts at the time suggested Julie had been heading to meet a taxi driver, and another witness reported her arguing with a man who appeared to be trying to force her into a van.

Media reports have linked a convicted double murderer, who drove a white transit van and who was working as a taxi driver, to Julie's murder.

Cathy told the ECHO that around 12 months before her murder Susan had turned up at her brother Bill's home in a panic, saying: "He's waiting for me out there in the white van."

She said: "He looked out the window and a white van was around the corner, you could just see the back end of it but he couldn't see the plates.

"He asked 'who is waiting for you? But Susan got off and he didn't know whether she went to the white van or not. "

Michael Kelly was brutally murdered by his flatmate in 2002

The murder of Michael Kelly

Susan's case remains an open wound for Cathy due to the lack of justice, but the pain of losing Michael is still raw.

Cathy accepts her son, who was 35 when he died, had been involving in drug dealing between Liverpool and the Midlands, where he was living with Edwards at the time in a flat in Tolladine, Worcester.

She said she had suspicions that he was involved in criminal activity when he was alive, but whenever she confronted Michael he would say: "Leave it mum, what you don't know won't hurt you."

A police investigation found that Edwards had been challenged by Michael over some missing drugs money, and reacted by smashing an axe into Michael's head.

In a desperate attempt to avoid justice, Edwards borrowed a saw from an unwitting neighbour and dismembered the body.

The killer then enlisted the help of accomplice Ashley Shearon, who helped him dump Michael's remains in woods in Grafton Lane, Bidford-on-Avon.

The pair then torched the bloody flat to try and cover their tracks.

Cathy said: "That was like a nightmare, it was history repeating itself all over again."

Edwards, then 32, was jailed for life in October 2003, while Shearon, 34, was jailed for five years for perverting the course of justice.

Cathy says the arrogant killer "grinned" at her from the dock in Birmingham Crown Court, and media reports from the time reveal at one stage during his trial he hurled a glass of water over a prosecution barrister.

Closure

Cathy says that knowing justice was done in Michael's case is positive, but she still suffers knowing Susan's killer could still be walking the streets.

She said: "With Michael, I feel anger, I get angry at him for putting himself into that situation.

"With Susan, she was vulnerable. She was a person with a mental illness, she could not help herself. She didn't know what she was doing.

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"I can still remember her playing in the street, skipping with her pigtails. But then you remember what happened, and I think; was she screaming for help?"

"I'm getting to an age now where I wonder how long I have got left. If I go at the same age as my dad I have two years, and I don't think they will ever find him.

"I think has he done it to someone else? Is he still doing that kind of thing? Is he sitting back laughing, ha ha ha? I go mad thinking about it."