Fifth tragedy rocks community

TRIBUTES were last night paid to a keen footballer who was killed in a car crash - the fifth young man in a local close knit community to die in tragic circumstances in less than three years.

Craig Robinson

TRIBUTES were last night paid to a keen footballer who was killed in a car crash - the fifth young man in a local close knit community to die in tragic circumstances in less than three years.

The grieving family of 25-year-old Luke Barham described the father-of-one as a “precious” son, brother and uncle who would be greatly missed by all who loved him.

The former Leiston High School pupil, of Chantry Road, Saxmundham, is the fifth young man in the local community to lose his life in tragic circumstances in less than three years.

His friends Darren Welton, 20, from nearby Kelsale, and 28-year-old Samuel Fordham, from Saxmundham, died following an accident on the A145 at Henham on January 23, 2008.

Mr Barham and Mr Welton both played football for Benhall St Mary while all three of the young men attended Leiston High School.

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Another friend, Nigel Stebbings, 24, who played football for Knodishall before joining Peasenhall United, died after his car careered into a hedge in Harrow Lane, Theberton, just after midnight on Saturday, March 3, 2007.

Mr Stebbings, who also lived in Saxmundham, grew up in Westleton and attended Middleton Primary and Leiston middle and high schools.

Fellow footballer Wayne Barker, 35, from Rendham near Saxmundham, died in August this year after suffering a suspected heart attack while playing for Saxmundham Sports Reserves in a match against Ufford Sports.

Last night Mr Barham's parents Chris Barham, 50 and his mother Debby Bagstaff, also 50, along with his four sisters, Danielle Duffy, 28, Vicky Barham, 27, Alex Cook, 18, and Jorden Bagstaff, 10, paid an emotional tribute to their son and brother, who had a four-year-old son called Mackenzie.

“I think he came out kicking a football,” his mother said. “He loved it and was a very passionate Arsenal fan.

“He was a little mischievous and enjoyed being the centre of attention.

“He was a very good father and adored Mackenzie. He'll be sadly missed by everyone. He was a very precious son - the one and only.”

His father added: “He was a huge character and would help anyone - he was very close to his friends and would do anything for them. He was a typical lad and enjoyed going out socialising and having fun.

“I don't think we will ever come to terms with it. One of his friends died in a similar way, and two of his friends died in a crash too.”

The family - who are now planning to set up a trust fund for Mackenzie - said they would like to thank everyone for their support.

Last night Geoffrey Brown, secretary of Benhall Badgers, paid tribute to Mr Barham on behalf of the entire football club.

Their match against Ufford Sport's was postponed at the weekend and the whole club will be travelling to Lowestoft on Saturday for the first team's cup game.

“Luke was a nice character and had played for us for quite a number of years,” Mr Brown said. “He was as good as gold. He played everywhere but mostly as a forward or in midfield. I think it will take a very long time before people realise he has gone.”

Mr Barham, who also attended Yoxford Primary School and Saxmundham Middle School, worked at Sizewell Power Station and yesterday the flag outside the nuclear plant was flying at half mast.

He was killed after the Alfa Romeo he was a passenger in collided with a telegraph pole and crashed into a ditch on the A1094 Aldeburgh Road, at Friston at 12.30am on Saturday. He was taken to Ipswich Hospital but later died.

A 24-year-old man from the Leiston area, believed to be his friend, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and drink driving and has been released on bail until January 9.

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision is asked to call Pc Daniel Ormes at the Police Headquarters Roads Policing Unit on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.