TRAGEDY has devastated a South Yorkshire family for the second time with a mystery death – after 23-year-old Wombwell man Sam Clarke died in a wheat field.
Mr Clark, of Dovecote, Wombwell, was a front seat passenger in a Subaru 4X4, that was found overturned 250 yards off the road, in a wheat field in Great Limber, North Lincolnshire, in the early hours of March 21.
Police have launched an investigation into the incident, to try to determine why the car was in the field, and how it had overturned.
The driver – a 23-year-old Darfield man, and another passenger from Bolton-on-Dearne – escaped with minor injuries.
The dead man's mother, Rose – who lost her husband in a mystery pub incident 18 years ago – was on holiday in Australia when she heard of her latest loss.
A huge turnout is expected for Mr Clarke's funeral today at Elsecar Parish Church – at which two of his six DOGS will form a guard of honour.
Mrs Clarke told how Sam "lived for his six dogs and the great outdoors".
And his coffin will lie, surrounded by his beloved dogs, in a specially created 'memorial garden' at the Brampton home of his partner of three years Tracey Abrahams, in the final hours before the funeral.
Later, Dennis and Frazer – two of Sam's six lurchers and terriers – will stand outside Elsecar Church during his funeral. His other dogs – Walter, Tess, Molly and Meg – will stay at home.
Mrs Clarke told how, when Sam was just four, her husband died at the age of 42, in a pub toilet.
She and Sam had moved to a new Wombwell home just six months ago, to escape the past.
Sam had recently landed a new job as a construction worker at a Barnsley hotel site, and the day before he died, had booked a holiday to Tunisia with Tracey.
Mrs Clarke said: "I lost my husband, then my brother at 42, and now Sam. It seems we have a tragedy every 10 years.
"People have said to me, oh, you've dealt with this before, but it's very different. This is my child. I'm not prepared....how could you be?"
She added: "From being a little boy, Sam was always out with his dogs.
"He was always laughing, full of humour and good spirits. He never smoked or drank, nothing like that.. it's a complete waste of a life.But I'm glad I had him for the time I did."
Mrs Clarke, a qualified counsellor, had booked her trip to Australia – to stay with her brother, Trevor Hawkhead in Melbourne, and a pen pal in Sydney – at the last minute, after postponing it previously due to her 87-year-old mum's ill health.
Trevor flew home with her on hearing the news of her son's death.
He told the Times he spent many happy hours with Sam, both walking and fishing.
At his funeral, Sam's coffin-bearer friends will all be dressed in outdoor khaki
Following his cremation, Sam's ashes will be scattered across fields and woodland around Elsecar and Wombwell.
As a youngster, Sam enjoyed football, and was once a Barnsley FC mascot, appearing on television with the team.
He grew up in Elsecar, in the former St John's Methodist Chapel converted into a family home by his parents, and attended the village's Church Street school, followed by Kirk Balk at Hoyland.
His death has brought memories flooding back to Rose of husband Geoffrey's death.
She told how Geoffrey had been found slumped on a pub toilet floor, after allegedly going in to calm someone down. There were no witnesses to what happened to Mr Clarke.
Mrs Clarke said she had selected 'happy hymns' for the funeral service – at 12.15pm at Elsecar Parish Church today, followed by a reception later at Brampton.
Sam's sister Chantal and brother Nathan will speak in church.
An inquest into Sam's death was opened and adjourned in Boston, Lincs, last week, pending a police investigation into the incident.
* Full picture coverage of Sam's funeral will appear in next week's Times