"IF THE residents were upset, I apologise, but my son passed away in that park."

Those are the words of the grieving mother, who celebrated her son's 21st birthday during lockdown in a Southampton park were his body was found.

Elaine Hemy's son, Sol, was found in Riverside Park on September 5 last year, sparking a huge police investigation in the city.

Daily Echo:

On June 1, it was reported that a large group of people were seen partying at the park, which was met with anger from both residents and councillors, who described the group as "selfish" for breaching the lockdown laws.

Residents also reported bonfires, barbecues and fireworks.

But now Sol's mother has spoken out about why the gathering took place.

"We understand we broke the lockdown," she said. "But we were celebrating my son's life, who was found dead in that park.

"I think there as a huge mix-up as to why we were there. There were no bonfires or barbecues, there was no food, we had eight [fireworks] that we let off for his birthday.

Daily Echo:

"We met up over the horrible circumstances surrounding my son's death. I feel like we have been downtrodden.

"The police did attend at 9pm and they were very respectful. There were no arrests made and no fines.

"I kept reiterating about social distancing. The people that came down were very respectful.

"If the residents were upset, I apologise, but my son passed away in that park."

Elaine described Sol as a "very funny, happy young man" who was always there for other people and offering a helping hand.

She added: "He would help anyone, he was so kind, caring and loving.

"He walked in and he lit the room up.

"He went to a Catholic school, he had discipline and education.

"My son was so full of love, he gave us so many memories.

"I still haven't come to terms with it all, I get my strength through the love and support we have."