The family of a man whose body was found in a derelict caravan above Heptonstall last month have thanked Calder Valley people for the help they gave him over the years.
Danny Halkyard, who was 43, had lived without a permanent home in the area for many years and was a familiar sight in both Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.
As his mum Lyn explains below, Danny experienced mental health problems which led to his choice of how he led his life. He became estranged from his family, who missed him terribly, but they have taken some comfort from what they have learned about Danny’s life in the area.
Here, Lyn tells Danny’s and his family’s story.
“We wanted to write to tell you thanks for taking care of Danny for us over the years. Unfortunately, the nature of his mental health difficulties meant he wanted to live apart from us and resist any attempts to look after him, but more of that later.
“Danny was born the week before Xmas in 1971 - my first born. Danny was born and died a free spirit.
“As a child he was fearless, full of life with a fantastic sense of humour. He was sporty, chosen to carry the Commonwealth torch in the 1980s, he played rugby and swam for the school.
“Danny had many friends. Our house was always full of them coming and going. He was also very popular with the girls!
“He has a younger brother, born at home in a farmhouse in Bacup where we used to live. He was a very proud, protective and affectionate older brother. He had a step-dad, birth dad, cousins, uncles, and aunts.
“He has two fantastic nephews who he never got to meet. He would have been a great uncle if his world and ours hadn’t been turned upside down. He wasn’t perfect, but then neither are we!
“Sadly when Danny reached his mid-teens, chronic mental health difficulties came into his life.
“Danny’s free spirit came to the fore and after a dismal, traumatic experience with the medication considered to help those with mental health problems Danny decided he did not wish to take them.
“He chose a more unconventional route, dropping out of ‘normal’ society which had become a scary place to him. He was lost to us.
“He made this decision almost 20 years ago. As a family we have missed him terribly but his illness meant that he did not want any contact with us.
“Although we understood and tried to respect this, it has been so very hard not knowing if he was safe. The sad news of his death has been unbearably painful. As a mother, I feel broken and incomplete.
“Despite our pain and sadness we wanted to tell you that we have taken such comfort and reassurance from the responses we have had from the Todmorden and Hebden Bridge communities.
“Today we received a number of cards from you, the local people. Hearing that you actually knew and cared about him is so very special.
“We loved hearing about his weakness for pear drop ice-cream at a local tea shop and that he was seen smiling just before New Year by someone called Jill.
“It’s good to know he smiled. Danny’s mental health difficulties made him fearful but he obviously felt safe in your very special communities.
“He was found dead on January 11 in a derelict caravan on land near Mid Slack, Heptonstall. The coroner assures us that Danny would have gone peacefully. Slipping into unconsciousness as his body went into shock due to a bleeding duodenal ulcer. Hopefully that will help us with the pain in the future.
“We would like to say a very big thank you to all those who took care of Danny for us. Hopefully he will now be at peace and ready for a new adventure.
“We will be bringing his ashes back to the moors where he chose to live sometime in the spring and hope to pop into tea shops and organic store etc whilst there.
“Anybody who wishes to join us to send Danny on to his next journey would be very welcome. We really cannot thank you enough. Warmest regards and thank you so very much, Lyn (Danny’s mum), Ben (his brother) and Andy (stepdad).”