A MOTHER searching for answers about the death of her son has ended her pavement protest outside the Foreign Office.

Julie Sheppard is trying to reopen an investigation into the death of her son Andrew Watt, who died suddenly in France in 2010.

Mr Watt, from Durham City, was 31 when he was found dead about a mile from Vimarce, near Laval, in North-West France, in September 2010.

Mrs Sheppard has spent more than three weeks sitting outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London after meeting a dead-end in her efforts to get French police to reopen their investigation.

As a result of the protest, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan has written to Mrs Sheppard and her husband Les to say FCO officials have contacted the French authorities to ask if there was anything further that could be done.

In a letter seen by the Northern Echo, Mr Duncan said the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Laval has said the family can write directly to the state prosecutor to request that the case be reopened.

Mrs Sheppard said: “We have to pursue this avenue because they have done more than we expected. I’m surprised they have opened the door a little bit and we’ve got to really make sure we do everything we can.”

The family, which has been advised to seek help from French lawyers, has been warned that once closed, cases are rarely reopened .

Mr Duncan’s letter adds: “I appreciate that it must be frustrating to have so many unanswered questions.

“If the case is reopened in France, we will do whatever we can to help, but there are currently no further steps that we can take with the French authorities.”

He adds that the FCO or British Embassy cannot ask for the investigation to be reopened or insist that British police officers assist.

The family has been searching for answers for seven years, which has even led them to try and collect their own evidence in France – which they say revealed a number of contradiction and anomalies in the official reports.

According to a witness who was tracked down by Mrs Sheppard, Mr Watt was found with bruising and scratches on his legs, neck and torso and had a broken ankle.

In 2010 a French police report said he had committed suicide after running away and in October 2011 it was concluded that the death could not be ascertained.

An inquest, held in Crook in County Durham in 2015 recorded an open verdict.

Mr Watt, who was a former pupil of Durham Johnston School, had been living with his partner in France at the time of his death.

Mrs Sheppard added: “There are all these questions that have not been answered. It’s not evidence that he has been shot or stabbed but there are a lot of looses ends that don’t add up.

“There’s something not right which is why we have continued the fight. We might never know but there’s something pushing me to keep going.”

According to the letter from Mr Duncan, the case was last reviewed in 2015 – something Mr Watt’s family was not aware of.

The family has been offered help by criminologist Tony Blockley, who has agreed to work on the case for free.