Friends of a man found dead after facing child grooming charges said allegations made on social networking sites had ‘devastated’ him.
David Hughes, 44, was found dead at his home on Whalley Road, Clayton-le-Moors, last Thursday afternoon. Coach driver Mr Hughes, who was originally from Durham, faced criminal charges of sexual grooming and inciting sexual activity with a teenage girl.
He had appeared at Blackburn Magistrates Court in December and was due to appear at Preston Crown Court on June 12. Police confirmed that the divorced father-of-two was the subject of ‘inappropriate’ Facebook comments relating to the charges against him.
His boss at Abbey Coaches Terry O’Neil said Mr Hughes had been very upset by online comments branding him a ‘paedo’. He said: “We were supporting him here because we don’t believe anything that was said. He was innocent in my eyes until someone tells me he’s guilty.
“Someone posted his picture, name and address online and it devastated him because he couldn’t understand why anyone would do it.
“There were a lot of horrible comments posted on Facebook calling him a ‘paedo’ and saying he needed to be shot and hanged.
“He was just an all round nice person who would never bother anybody.”
Lancashire Police said a Facebook page about Mr Hughes was removed last month.
A spokesman said: “We identified the person responsible, spoke with them and advised them to take down the page, which they did. There was no further investigation into the matter.”
Mr Hughes’ best friend and ex-fiancee Sarah, who did not wish to give her last name, said he had been ‘gutted’ by the charges.
She said: “There is not a single part of me that believes any of it.
“He was so popular as a driver that people requested him to drive for them. He said this was the worst thing he could have been accused of.
“He felt he had been tarred with that brush.”
Lancashire Police confirmed that Mr Hughes’ body was discovered at around 3pm on April 4 when officers attended his home address following concerns about his safety.
A spokesperson added: “On entering the property, officers found a 44-year-old-man deceased inside. The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be passed to the coroner.”
An inquest into his death has been opened by Hyndburn coroner Michael Singleton and adjourned until Wednesday, June 5.