THE son of murder victim Ann Heron said last night he was dismayed to discover her former husband was planning to sue police.

Michael Cockburn, Ann's youngest son from a previous marriage, spoke out after it was revealed retired businessman Peter Heron planned civil action over the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to discontinue the case against him.

The 70-year-old had been due to stand trial soon accused of murdering Ann as she sunbathed in the garden of her home, near Darlington, on August 3, 1990.

Mrs Heron met the former businessman after her relationship with Ralph Cockburn broke up after 18 years. They had three children, Ralph, Ann Marie and Michael.

In a statement, Mr Cockburn said: "I can't believe that anyone would consider taking civil action against those who have worked so relentlessly on my mum's behalf, and ours, for 16 long years.

"I would like to personally and publicly thank all the police officers involved in this investigation for their many years of hard effort."

He said he had every confidence in the police's ability to bring the murderer to justice.

And he added Ann Heron's sister Maureen Hay, who now lives in Canada, had pledged to be in court for the trial.

Speaking from her home, near Toronto, she told The Northern Echo: "Our hopes were that at long last we could put Ann to rest and get on with our lives.

"My heart goes out to Ann's children and I hope one day someone somewhere will be found guilty of Ann's murder."

Durham police said the investigation into Ann Heron's murder remains active.

The force is employing independent forensic experts to look again at the case.

Mr Heron has claimed he was the victim of a "malicious prosecution" and has continued to maintain his innocence.

A spokesman for Durham police said: "We are aware the family of Ann Heron are disappointed with the latest developments.

"They have been and continue to be very supportive of Durham police and all the officers involved in this investigation."