Twelve men jailed for their role in attack which left Simon Dobbin brain damaged

Simon Dobbin with his wife Nicole and daughter Emily.
Picture: Mark Westley
Simon Dobbin with his wife Nicole and daughter Emily. Picture: Mark Westley

Twelve men have been jailed for their role in a ‘vicious’ attack which left a football fan from Mildenhall permanently brain damaged.

Three of the men were jailed for five years - the maximum possible sentence for the offence of committing violent disorder - with sentences of varying lengths for the others following the attack on Mr Dobbin in Southend.

Top left to right: Ryan Carter, Scott Nicholls, Lewis Courtnell, Alexander Woods, Rhys Pullen, Thomas Randall, Jamie Chambers
Bottom left to right: Greg Allen, Ian Young, James Woods, Matthew Petchey, Michael Shawyer, Philip McGill

Top left to right: Ryan Carter, Scott Nicholls, Lewis Courtnell, Alexander Woods, Rhys Pullen, Thomas Randall, Jamie Chambers Bottom left to right: Greg Allen, Ian Young, James Woods, Matthew Petchey, Michael Shawyer, Philip McGill

Around 24 people set upon the Cambridge United fan and his friends in East Street, Southend, following a match between Cambridge and Southend United on March 21, 2015.

Mr Dobbin, 45, was knocked unconscious and suffered swelling on the brain.

He spent a year in hospital and rehabilitation before returning home to Mildenhall, Suffolk, in March 2016.

But he needs 24-hour care and has been left unable to walk or talk.

I hate what these violent thugs have done. Simon has a life sentence and what will they get? Back to their own lives in a few years.

Nicole Dobbin

Following a trial at Basildon Crown Court, 12 men were sentenced today.

Passing sentence today, Judge Pugh said: “The attack on Simon Dobbin was vicious and a sustained attack involving kicking and stamping on a defenceless man.”

The 12 sentenced were:

Thomas Randall, 22, a consumer credit employee, of Seaforth Avenue, Southend, was jailed for five years for violent disorder;

Simon Dobbin and his wife Nicole.

Simon Dobbin and his wife Nicole.

Alexander Woods, 25 of Fairmead Avenue, Westcliff, was jailed for five years and his twin James Woods, of the same address, was jailed for three years, both for violent disorder;

Ryan Carter, 21, unemployed, of no fixed address, was jailed for five years for violent disorder;

Jamie Chambers, 24, a removals operative, of Southchurch Avenue, Southend, was jailed for four years for violent disorder;

Lewis Courtnell, 34, a fence installer, of Stadium Road, Southend, was jailed for three and a half years for violent disorder;

Matthew Petchey, 26, unemployed, formerly of Lascelles Gardens, Rochford, was jailed for three and a half years for violent disorder;

Scott Nicholls, 40, a construction worker, of Little Spenders, Basildon, was jailed for three and a half years for violent disorder;

Greg Allen, 29, a painter, of Wellington Avenue, Westcliff, was jailed for three years for conspiracy to commit violent disorder;

Philip McGill, 32, an electrician, of Hornby Avenue, Westcliff, was jailed for three years for conspiracy to commit violent disorder;

Michael Shawyer, 32, a tiler, of Belgrave Road, Leigh-on-Sea, was jailed for two and a half years for conspiracy to commit violent disorder;

Rhys Pullen, 21, a telecommunications engineer of Bridge Road, Wickford previously admitted the charge of violent disorder. He was jailed for 16 months.

Sentencing for Ian Young, 41, an electrician, of Brightwell Avenue, Westcliff, for assisting an offender will take place on August 2.

Prior to sentencing, Judge Pugh allowed Mr Dobbin’s wife Nicole, 46, to read a statement to the court.

She said: “On March 21, 2015 my life was turned upside down. As you are aware my husband Simon travelled to Southend to watch the football, a day he had so been looking forward to.

“I told him to enjoy the day but this was the last time I would see the husband I married.

“A fun-loving family man, he was always looking out for us.

“While working a night shift I was visited by two police officers who told me Simon had been beaten up and was on life support at Southend hospital.

“I had to return home to wake our 16-year-old daughter and tell her what happened.

“This was the hardest thing of all.

“Simon had been beaten so badly that you could not see his ear. Simon remained in an induced coma. It took paramedics seven minutes to restart his heart.

“I believed Simon would wake from this coma and return to his normal fun-loving self - how wrong was I?

“Although Simon is alive he no longer has a life. He has clear signs of physical and mental damage. Simon returned home on March 16, 2016. Simon has been admitted to hospital on numerous occasions as he is unable to breath and clear his throat.

“I now feel his life is in our hands. I’ve had to give up my job to become Simon’s full-time carer.

“Many nights I struggle to sleep as Simon chokes on his saliva and it terrifies me that he will choke to death.

“I have to deal with all his care needs. We have a carer from 8am-8pm but at night I’m on my own.

“I’m constantly shattered. Not only have they destroyed Simon’s life but mine also. I’ve been married to Simon for almost 20 years. We had plans to go to Australia for our 20th wedding anniversary but this has been robbed from us.

“I will never hear my husband tell me he loves me again, I will never feel his arms around me but I need this more than ever.

“Simon will never walk Emily down the aisle and no child should have to see the dad they love reduced to tears. It destroys me knowing that one day I’ll wake up without my husband. I often wonder if it would be better to let him go peacefully.

“I hate what these violent thugs have done. Simon has a life sentence and what will they get? Back to their own lives in a few years. These defendants took Simon’s life - it is the acts of the paramedics that brought his life back. I’m disappointed with the justice system - this is wrong and so unfair.

“The law needs to be changed. These men need to be made an example of. My family and I have had to sit and listen to how this was a pre-planned attack and then see these thugs outside the court room.

“I now have to watch my dad cry every time he sees Simon. This nightmare will never end for us.”

Following the sentencing hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “I am aware that some of the defendants’ friends have made comment that Mr Dobbin was ejected from the match and caused problems in the pub. This is absolute nonsense.

“Let me be clear, Simon Dobbin is a thoroughly decent man. He was not involved in any form of disturbance and was not ejected from the match or any other establishment.

“He is an entirely innocent victim of an unprovoked savage attack which left him with a permanent and devastating brain injury.

“My heart goes to Mr Dobbin’s family who have shown immense courage and dignity throughout the investigation and trial. I hope that the sentences issued today help to draw a line under this awful chapter of their lives and they can now concentrate on the future.

“The investigation into what happened that night and bringing those responsible for what happened to him to justice has been complex.

“My team have spoken to well over 100 witnesses, spent about 500 man hours reviewing CCTV, carried out detailed analysis of mobile phone data and carried out detailed forensic analysis.

“Despite our best efforts we still don’t know who exactly threw the fateful blows that left Simon with his life-changing injuries.

“Someone, however, does know. And while today we have seen a number of people sentenced in connection with the events of that evening, I still ask anyone who has information to contact us.

“What happened to Simon could have happened to anyone’s husband, father, or son.

“I also hope this tragic case highlights the consequences of football-related violence.

“We know there had been tensions involving a minority of people claiming to be football supporters that day.

“We believe they had been looking for a fight, and this resulted in the attack on Simon and his friends, who were completely innocent and not involved in any previous quarrels or incidents.

“No genuine football fan would ever be involved in, or condone, such acts of such horrific violence.

“This was not fuelled by a passion for the game. It was fuelled by alcohol and thuggery and there is never any justification for such mindless behaviour.”

Contact the Harlow Major Investigation Team on 101 or email scdappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk

Alternatively, contact independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org