Attacked by animals
Footy thugs could’ve killed my hubby
'My head’s killing me,’ groaned my hubby Simon. ‘I’m off for an early night.’
Ever since we first locked eyes across the nightclub dancefloor in 1996, Simon had always been a genial, fun-loving fella.
But, recently, he’d been plagued by headaches, leaving him feeling irritable.
He’d even missed some football matches at his beloved local team.
I persuaded Simon to go for an eye test, only the optician referred him to West Suffolk Hospital for an MRI scan.
Next day, he got a phone call telling him to return to the hospital straight away. It was bad news. ‘I’m afraid Simon has a brain tumour. We won’t know what kind until we operate,’ the doctor told us.
I burst into tears, but Simon stayed calm.
‘Thanks, doctor,’ he said, leaving the consulting room quietly with me.
I had to smile – only my Simon could respond so politely to such awful news.
In 2008, Simon underwent a gruelling, eighthour operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, when doctors removed a massive, benign growth known as a meningioma.
We were told it wasn’t cancer. Thank God.
Recovering, Simon resumed his delivery manager job, and began making weekend trips to watch footy matches again.
And, before I knew it, our 20th wedding anniversary was approaching.
We planned to celebrate with a holiday to Australia, together with our little girl Emily, who was then 8.
The brain tumour scare seemed like a long way off. I couldn’t imagine anything other than a long, happy life with my hubby.
But then, on 21 March 2015, Simon went to watch Cambridge United play away at Southend with his mate.
I kissed him goodbye and went to work at my job in a care home.
Towards midnight, a colleague told me I had some visitors.
There were two police officers waiting for me.
‘Your husband was attacked after the football match. He’s on a life-support machine,’ one told me. Oh, my God!
I went home to collect Emily and my sister Michelle, then drove to Southend Hospital.
When I arrived, I barely recognised Simon.
His head was grotesquely swollen, and he was on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma, connected up to so many tubes and wires. Horrific. Police said that Simon had been attacked in the street by a gang of football hooligans, and that they were now trying to identify the guilty men. I could barely take it in. My gentle husband wouldn’t hurt a fly, so why would they attack him?
‘I’m here now,’ I said shakily at Simon’s bedside.
I was just willing him to wake up.
But hours turned to days, then weeks, as he hovered
A colleague told me I had visitors. Two police officers…
between life and death. On three occasions, we almost lost him. But somehow, each time, he made it through. ‘Has Simon had brain surgery before?’ one doctor asked me. When I told him about the tumour, the medic said the cavity it left behind had probably saved his life, allowing space to ease the pressure as his brain swelled. But I was warned that the Simon who eventually woke up wouldn’t be the same man I’d waved off to the footy match. After the attack, Simon had stopped breathing for seven minutes. ‘He has severe brain damage,’ the doctor warned me. It was a terrifying time. After five weeks, Simon began to wake from his coma. But he couldn’t walk, talk or control his movements. Was my hubby still
Despite her dad being in a coma, Emily had somehow managed to sit her GCSES, and, in June, she was due to go to her school prom.
‘You must go,’ I urged her. ‘You’ve worked so hard.’
So, first, she put on her prom dress and came to visit Simon at the hospital.
His eyes lit up, and a big smile spread across his face.
That’s when I knew…
He may no longer be the same Simon he used to be, but my husband was still there, trapped inside his poor, battered body.
Police told me that they’d made a number of arrests.
But my focus was firmly set on Simon.
In the August, five months after the attack, he spoke his first words.
‘I love you,’ he said in a husky voice.
He managed to count to 40, and tell Emily and me that he loved us both.
‘I’m so proud of you,’ I told him through my tears.
Simon spent a year in hospital and a rehabilitation centre before coming home.
He was confined to his bed, which had been set up in our old dining room, and he needed 24-hour care.
But I had wonderful support from family, friends and our team of four carers, for which I’m so grateful.
Meanwhile, the wheels of justice moved slowly until, finally, in June, 13 men were charged to appear at Basildon Crown Court.
I went along, determined to see justice for Simon.
All but one of the 13 accused men were pleading not guilty to the charges.
The court heard that the gang had scouted locations as they went about planning a revenge attack for a fight that had happened earlier that day – a fight that was nothing whatsoever to do with Simon.
They then ambushed a small group of Cambridge United supporters in the street, and my husband was attacked as he tried to escape.
Witnesses reported seeing Simon lying motionless on the ground, being kicked and stamped on.
It was agonising to think of the terrible pain he must have been in.
After making arrests, police discovered that one of the attackers had photos of a ‘calling card’ saved on his mobile phone.
It read, ‘You’ve just met the CS Crew (Southend United). First we take your life, then we take your wife.
As they sat in the dock throughout the court hearing, the thugs nudged each other and smirked, as if they were enjoying some sort of boys’ day out. Disgusting.
I was warned Simon wouldn’t be the same
At the end of the trial, 10 men were found guilty of violent disorder, two of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and one of possessing a prohibited weapon and assisting an offender. ‘Good news, love,’ I told Simon. He seemed happy, and decided to attend the sentencing.
As he arrived in court in his wheelchair, I’d like to think those yobs finally realised what they’d done. Several of them started crying.
Or maybe they were just weeping for themselves.
Between them, they were given a total of more than 42 years in prison.
After, as I made my way outside the court to speak to the Press, members of the guilty men’s families yelled insults at me. Animals.
One woman screamed, ‘We’ll get our men back one day, but you’ll never get your husband back.’ Our family and friends have
questioned why the men were only charged with violent disorder – which carries a maximum five years in prison – and not the more serious charge of attempted murder or causing grievous bodily harm. The problem was the police couldn’t pinpoint who’d actually caused specific injuries. At least some kind of justice has been served for Simon. Now family life goes on. I’ve given up my job to look after Simon. Emily is studying for her A levels, and hopes to become a paramedic. And Simon still loves Cambridge United. In July, they played Southend United for the first time since the attack, and we had an executive box at the Club, with my hubby as guest of honour. We wore football shirts with the slogan United We Stand Against Football Violence.
Those yobs weren’t football fans. They went out looking for a fight, and robbed a wonderful man of his health.
Now we’re fighting against football violence. No other family should go through
what we have.