Fam­ily want an­swers over English fan’s death in Bul­garia

Sup­porter died be­fore Euro qual­i­fier in Sofia Bulgarian po­lice ‘not giving us any an­swers’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Matt Law and Tom Morgan

The fam­ily of the Eng­land sup­porter who died in Bul­garia ahead of the Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing match want an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into the cir­cum­stances be­hind his death.

Rob Spray, from Heath Hayes, in Cannock, died while in po­lice cus­tody on Mon­day, but his dis­traught fam­ily have been given no an­swers over what he was treated for or why he was al­lowed to be taken from the hos­pi­tal in Sofia by po­lice.

Spray, a 32-year-old West Bromwich Al­bion sea­son ticket-holder who lived at home with his mother and fa­ther, was in a group of 10 fans cel­e­brat­ing a friend’s 30th birth­day and was not a reg­u­lar trav­eller on Eng­land away trips.

His fam­ily are in con­tact with Stafford­shire Po­lice and have also been in touch with the For­eign Of­fice and the MP for Cannock Chase, Amanda Milling, as they seek an­swers on what hap­pened to Spray and when they can bring his body back to Eng­land.

A fundrais­ing page set up to cover the costs of repa­tri­at­ing Spray’s body has al­ready raised over £15,000, but his fam­ily are un­happy with the amount of in­for­ma­tion they have been given from the Bulgarian author­i­ties. Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to The Tele­graph, Spray’s sis­ter, Katie Brown, said: “We’ve got a li­ai­son of­fi­cer and he is telling us the Bulgarian po­lice aren’t speak­ing to the Stafford­shire Po­lice. So Stafford­shire have told us they are go­ing to get In­ter­pol in­volved be­cause the Bulgarian po­lice are not giving us any an­swers.

“I’ve been speak­ing to Amanda Milling’s of­fice be­cause we want an­swers and we need some help. We want an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into what hap­pened. They said they will get on to the For­eign Of­fice, but all they have called for so far is my brother’s travel in­sur­ance de­tails.

“We want to get his body back. The lo­cal un­der­taker is com­ing, but we don’t know what to do. No­body is help­ing us, we don’t know which way to turn.

“The only thing we’ve been told is that it could take a min­i­mum of 14 days to get Rob back, but it could take longer if the au­topsy is in­con­clu­sive. The tox­i­col­ogy re­port is com­ing Fri­day, but that’s all we’ve been told.”

Stafford­shire Po­lice said in a state­ment: “A fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cer from Stafford­shire Po­lice is sup­port­ing the rel­a­tives of a Cannock man who died in Sofia, Bul­garia.”

The orig­i­nal re­ports re­leased by the Bulgarian in­te­rior min­istry claimed that Spray had been found in a help­less con­di­tion in the cen­tre of Sofia and taken to hos­pi­tal be­fore po­lice were called when he be­gan be­hav­ing ag­gres­sively. It was also claimed that of­fi­cers were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether he had taken drugs.

But his sis­ter re­vealed that Spray was reg­u­larly drug-tested as part of his job as an HGV driver for DHL. She has been left con­fused by the gaps in in­for­ma­tion the fam­ily have been given.

“We want to know why it was put out in the pub­lic that the death was drug-re­lated,” said Brown. “He was tested the other week for drugs and he passed. He doesn’t take drugs, he couldn’t af­ford to be­cause of ran­dom drugs-test­ing, and he loved his job. We don’t be­lieve that there would have been any drugs.

“We’ve been told by one of his friends that where his ac­com­mo­da­tion was and where my brother was found, was 18km away. But my brother, he doesn’t even walk to the lo­cal shop, so I don’t know how he’s gone so far. We’ve been told he went out at 8.50am to get some cig­a­rettes, then he’s found 18km away at 9.58am. The re­port says that was when he was found un­con­scious on the ground, but we were told two things – that he had got a head in­jury and also that he was found in an in­tox­i­cated coma.

“We don’t know any­thing from here re­ally. We don’t know what he was treated for or whether or not he was given any­thing. We’ve heard they brought him round and then ap­par­ently he has be­come ag­gres­sive. But I can see him wak­ing up and think­ing. ‘Where the hell am I?’ He’s 6ft 3in and I don’t know whether they thought he was a threat to them, but it’s so out of char­ac­ter for them to say that. He was a gen­tle giant.

“Then, for some rea­son, they’ve called the po­lice and the po­lice have taken him from the hos­pi­tal to the po­lice sta­tion, he’s passed away in tran­sit. If he was un­well, why have they let him go to the po­lice?”

Spray’s death has left his fam­ily “bro­ken” and Brown, 40, paid trib­ute to her brother, say­ing: “He was just a gen­tle giant and he was the most po­lite lad you would meet. He was so lovely to ev­ery­one.

“We had a gath­er­ing at the lo­cal pub where Rob drank on Tues­day night. The Wind­ing Wheel in Heath Hayes, Cannock, where he is from. The word got out and on Tues­day it’s usu­ally dead in there, but it was packed with about 300 peo­ple. It just showed how much peo­ple loved him.”

A For­eign Of­fice state­ment said: “We are sup­port­ing the fam­ily of a Bri­tish man who died fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in Sofia and our staff are in con­tact with the UK and Bulgarian author­i­ties.”

‘He was just a gen­tle giant and he was the most po­lite lad you would meet. He was so lovely’

Tragic: Eng­land sup­porter Rob Spray died in Bul­garia ear­lier this week

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