Broadcasters' tribute to 23-year-old son

BROADCASTERS Libby Purves and Paul Heiney have paid tribute to their son after his body was discovered at the family's remote Suffolk home.A statement issued by the couple and their daughter, Rose, said 23-year-old Nicholas had died “by his own hand”.

By David Green

BROADCASTERS Libby Purves and Paul Heiney have paid tribute to their son after his body was discovered at the family's remote Suffolk home.

A statement issued by the couple and their daughter, Rose, said 23-year-old Nicholas had died “by his own hand”. It is understood he was found hanging.

His father was in North America when news of the tragedy reached him and he returned immediately.


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Nicholas had been suffering from a serious depressive illness for some time and had been under medical treatment.

“Outside close family, most did not know the gravity of his problems because he faced them with courage and humour, preferring to retire from company rather than, in his view, blight it,” the family said.

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More than 200 people, some of them from the world of broadcasting and others from Oxford University, where he had been a student until last year, are expected to attend his funeral in St Peter's Church, Westleton, on Monday.

Villagers spoke yesterday of their shock at the news of the tragedy.

They described a shy and diffident young man who sometimes found it difficult to relate to others but who had a “distinguished” mind, a sense of humour and “great potential”.

“He was very well-loved and supported within his circle of friends,” said one local resident, who asked not to be named.

Rev Richard Ginn , vicar of Westleton, said: “Sympathy and sorrow have marked local reactions to the news of the death of Nicholas.

“People have again been prompted to be alert to the needs of those with troubled minds.

“There is a strong feeling of local support for Paul and Libby and Rose as they adjust. The local church will continue to support them in our prayers.”

Nicholas shared his parents' love of sailing and the sea. As a teenager, he had crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific as a deckhand on a square-rigged Dutch ship, the Europa, helping train young Koreans in seamanship.

He graduated last year from St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he studied English.

“He rowed, cycled and skied, overcoming the physical fears that go with strong imagination.

“He loved the classic English course and his tutors, particularly the late Michael Gearin-Tosh and Professor Duncan Wu ,” said the family statement.

Professor Wu is due to speak at Monday's funeral service.

Nicholas' first ambition had been to teach at university level but post-graduate life had “come to seem pointless”.

The family statement said the young man had tried out jobs as a short-term intern.

“He had little confidence yet came back from every posting, whether at the National Theatre or a jewellery stall, with good stories and insights, even when he was low.

“He loved radio comedy and had a wonderfully dry sense of humour, even about himself, even at his lowest ebb.

“Lately he was considering working in a caring profession and training as a Jungian psychotherapist.

“From childhood, Nicholas never found life easy, but he lived it with courage, humour and dignity in spite of diffidence and the depressive illness which in the end violently overcame him.

“He will not be forgotten. Tributes to his gentleness and fineness of mind pour in. God rest him,” the family's statement said.

Ms Purves, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Midweek programme, told the East Anglian Daily Times that the family did not wish to say anything further.

The family is asking that no flowers be sent to the funeral but for any donations to be given to a charity which Nicholas admired, called Kids' Company.

Paul Heiney, who shot to fame in Esther Rantzen's That's Life television programme, and Libby Purves were married in Southwold and have lived in Suffolk since 1983, moving from Knodishall to Middleton and then to Westleton.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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