FORMER neighbours of a victim who suffered gruesome injuries to his genital area do not believe the act was revenge for sexual misdemeanours.
Police say the whole of Stephen Prudhoe's private parts were hacked off with a sharp instrument and people are naturally jumping to conclusions about why.
But Pat Paddock and her granddaughter Charlotte Hickey, 17, who lived next door to Mr Prudhoe for many years, have rejected claims he was involved in anything seedy.
Charlotte, who now lives in Maple Grove, Hoole, said: 'I used to go round there as a little kid and he didn't do anything to me.' Asked whether he might have harmed other youngsters, she insisted emphatically: 'No way.'
Commenting on the attack, she added: 'He must have been really frightened. It just makes you feel sick.'
Her grandmother Pat, who raised Charlotte, said: 'He had girlfriends. He had relationships with women.
'I couldn't imagine Steve interfering with kids. He was an ordinary healthy heterosexual as opposed to an ordinary healthy homosexual.'
Ms Paddock, who lived in Adelaide Road opposite Mr Prudhoe's old home in Roeburn Rise, said: 'Being ill he would stay in a lot. His best friends went round, of course.'
She recalled the victim's close relation-ship with his late father Sid. 'He was always with his dad. They would have a drink in The Byron. His dad died about 10 years ago.
'He was quiet but he really loved his rock music. He was always saying 'Come and listen to this'. He never went out of his way to join in with a group. He sat on his own or with his dad.
'He was heartbroken when his dad died but he got on with his life and carried on.'
She said Steve took voluntary redundancy from his job as a fitter at British Aerospace in Broughton when his dad died. He had a few temporary jobs at factories but generally earned less money and stopped going out as much.
Asked how she felt on hearing the sad news of Steve's demise, she said: 'I was shocked. He was the quietest person on earth.'
She added: 'It would take a hell of a lot to do that. It's obviously somebody with a screw loose. I think they have to be psychopath to do that.'
She dismissed claims that Steve, a cannabis smoker, could have owed money to a drug dealer who took revenge.
'He was not that sort of bloke. He was very cautious with his money.'
A current neighbour of Stephen Prudhoe, Barbara Boden, said: 'He wasn't a guy to make enemies. He was a funny bloke. If he could look down from wherever he is now he would think it was a joke. He would say I've never had this much attention in all my life.'
She is mystified as to why anyone would want to hurt her friend and neighbour.
She used to call Mr Prudhoe the 'wild man of Borneo' because of his long hair and remembered advising him when he told her he had a date.
She and husband Pat looked out for Mr Prudhoe because they considered him a decent man with a few problems. They believe he went down hill after his dad died.
Next door neighbour Carol Pleasant, whose house adjoins that of victim Stephen Prudhoe, remembers hearing doors banging and his dog Milo barking in the days leading up to her neighbour's death.
Ms Pleasant is vague about the exact timing but remembered thinking the noise from next door was louder than usual.
She said: 'The dog was going mad for a few days and barking a lot. There were banging doors and thudding noises. The walls are not all that thick. But you don't normally hear it as much but I put him down to him not being well.'
The neighbours got on reasonably well but Ms Pleasant said there was some friction over her son Kirk, 17, playing the piano.
'He sometimes moaned about the piano,' she said. 'Even when he came round he was fairly calm. He never raised his voice at all.'
Ms Pleasant added: 'The last time I saw him he could hardly walk. He was staggering on the road. It was 9.30am. He didn't look well.'
'Nobody deserves that. They're a weirdo whoever has done this.'
Ms Pleasant said the thought that a killer may be on the loose was a scary feeling but at least the police van out-side was a comfort.
She felt sorry for the neighbour who discovered Mr Prudhoe's body. 'She must have been really shocked,' she said.