At­tacked by an­i­mals

Footy thugs could’ve killed my hubby

Chat - - Come On In! - By Nicole Dob­bin, 46, from Milden­hall

'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

in there?

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.

Gen­tle Si­mon was tar­geted at ran­dom

Life has changed for­ever for me, Emily and Si­mon

In­no­cent fan Si­mon’s al­ways been a Cam­bridge United sup­porter

We’re mak­ing a stand against hooli­gan­ism

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