First published, October 15, 2009

THE five gunshots were fired in an instant but the devastation they caused has lasted 20 years and shows no sign of ending.

The gunman who shot Ricky Haywood at point-blank range left him lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom of his Southampton flat, and disappeared without a trace.

But the brutal and clinical murder left scars that two decades on are still painfully raw for the devastated family left behind.

Today, with the killer still at large on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the shocking killing, Ricky’s devoted mother has been emotionally crushed by her son’s death.

Eighty-year-old Phyllis Haywood now needs almost constant care from daughter Ann and has had to move into her home in West End.

“Since Ricky’s death she’s just really packed up,” said Ann, Ricky’s younger sister. “Her brain has taken over and I think shut out the pain and everything else.

“It broke my marriage up. The family crumbled completely – we’re back there now, but it had a devastating effect on the whole family, and still has.

“It’s really put her in this situation, because she was so vibrant before but now she’s just a shell. She’s just given up.

“It’s worse than losing her, because she’s just not the woman I knew. She looked after everyone but now she’s packed up and I’m the one looking after her.”

Ann, who was 32 when Ricky was killed in his small flat above Ambiance jewellers in Shirley High Street on October 16, 1989, said she would love more than anything to tell her mother the truth behind the murder.

Five years ago, Phyllis told the Daily Echo part of her had died with Ricky, and she was desperate for closure.

But despite the offer of a £100,000 reward and extensive enquiries that have seen police interview more than 11,000 people, take 4,000 statements and follow 6,000 individual lines of inquiry, the crime remains unsolved.

“The reward’s still there, and if anyone out there knows anything I’d just ask them to please find it in their heart to come forward – I just want to be able to tell (mum) what happened before she goes,” said Ann.

“She’s got no memory of Ricky now, but she always told me she needed to know what happened before she died.

“Things change over time. It might be that the person responsible isn’t around any more, and there’s no reason to be scared of telling the truth. And I do think it will all come to light some day – I’m very hopeful of that.

“The pain will never go away, but it would just put it all to rest, which would be wonderful.”

Detectives have always believed that the murder was the work of a professional hitman, a contract killing arranged by someone who maybe bore a grudge or who Ricky had upset.

One year after the killing, they vowed the killer would be caught, but warned; “Investigations have been difficult because a number of people don’t care who killed Ricky Haywood. We care for his mother’s sake and will find the killer for her.

“Ricky led a complicated lifestyle. He had several girlfriends and complicated business connections with those who, for their own reasons, have decided not to tell us the truth.”

Ann, whose two children were just six and ten when their uncle died, believes an unfair picture has been painted of her big brother.

“Ricky was a happy-go-lucky guy, he was silly,” she said.

“He was the life and soul of the party, a joker, and not the gangster people have made out he was.

“He was very attentive to the whole family.

He was lovely.

“The stories about it being to do with drugs always seemed absurd to me – it wasn’t that at all because he just wasn’t that involved with drugs.

“Obviously, he’s upset someone in the jewellery trade, and I don’t think it was someone who came down from London – I think it was a local.”

■ In a statement released by the family yesterday, it was stressed that the £100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Ricky Haywood’s killer still stands.