DIY SOS football fan's wife recalls last laughing day with husband

‘His heart just gave up’: DIY SOS football fan’s wife recalls last laughing day with the father-of-three, 48, who has died five years after hooligans’ attack

  • Nicole Dobbin said Simon was ‘messing around’ a day before ‘heart just gave up’
  • Mr Dobbin was ‘kicked like football’ after going to watch Cambridge United play
  • He had permanent brain damage and left severely disabled by March 2015 attack
  • Essex Police will review investigation into attack after he died yesterday morning

The wife of a DIY SOS football fan has recalled the last laughing day with the father-of-three, who died five years after a gang of thugs attacked him.

Nicole Dobbin, 48, said husband Simon, also 48, had been ‘messing around’ the day before his ‘heart just gave up’.

Mr Dobbin was beaten and ‘kicked like a football’ after going to watch Cambridge United play at Southend United in Essex in a brutal 90-second assault.

The Liverpool supporter from Mildenhall, Suffolk, who served in the RAF, suffered permanent brain damage and was left severely disabled by the attack in March 2015.

Essex Police has confirmed it will review their investigation into the attack after he died yesterday morning.

Nicole Dobbin, 48, said husband Simon, also 48, had been ‘messing around’ the day before his ‘heart just gave up’

Mr Dobbin is pictured (centre) with Cambridge fans at Southend United’s Roots Hall in 2015

Pictured is the final day of DIY SOS with Mr Dobbin at his home in Peterhouse Close, Mildenhall

Mrs Dobbin, who was her husband’s full-time carer, told Cambridgeshire Live yesterday: ‘He was absolutely fine yesterday.

‘He was laughing and messing around being a dead weight while I was trying to put a pillow under him. He was laughing at me when I couldn’t do it.

‘He was still for the night and I came down this morning as the alarm went off so I came and turned the machine off and then came back and that’s when he had gone.’

She continued: ‘I guess his heart just gave up. I came down at 7.20am and that’s when [it happened].

‘I hope that this news gets out to [the attackers] and plays on their heart strings. It’s been difficult.

‘I have had a lot of support from friends and family but to know that [the attackers] are all out now, it’s like they got on with their lives and get to forget about Simon and not give him thought.

‘They left us with the aftermath of this. Just looking at him you would think about it and visualise them stamping on his head for 90 seconds.

‘They didn’t just destroy Simon’s life, but they destroyed our lives as well. I lost the man I married. He was trapped in that body and suffered many health issues.’

Mr Dobbin’s ordeal touched the nation when his house was transformed by a team led by Nick Knowles on the BBC programme DIY SOS: The Big Build in January 2019.

The episode saw an army of volunteers help to turn his home into one more suitable for his needs, after he was left requiring round-the-clock care following the assault.

Paying tribute to Simon on Twitter, Knowles wrote: ‘Very sad news. His family put everything aside to care for him. Our sympathies are with them.’ 

Mr Dobbin is pictured in hospital on DIY SOS in January 2019 after he was left brain damaged 

Mr Dobbin’s home was transformed by a team from DIY SOS, who provided him with his own bedroom for the first time in three years. Above: The back garden before the transformation

After: As part of the transformation led by Nick Knowles, large glass doors were added to the property and the garden was modernised so the family could get out and enjoy the space

Sympathy: The TV host paid tribute to the father-of-three with a touching post on Twitter

Mrs Dobbin, 48, told ITV Anglia yesterday: ‘Today I lost my gentle giant, words cannot express the loss I’m feeling.

‘I’m thankful for the fantastic memories I have, he fought so very hard to be with his family.

‘Sadly his heart wasn’t strong enough, but he is now at peace and will be forever in my heart.’

Twelve men were jailed in 2017 but have all since been released from prison. 

Mrs Dobbin claims her husband ‘absolutely’ died of his injuries. 

The 12 men jailed for vicious attack 

Nine men jailed for violent disorder:

Five years for Ryan Carter, 21, of Southend-on-Sea

Four years for Jamie Chambers, 24, of Southend-on-Sea

Ryan Carter (left) and James Chambers

Three-and-a-half years for Lewis Courtnell, 34, of Southend-on-Sea

Three-and-a-half years for Scott Nicholls, 40, of Basildon

Lewis Courtnell (left) and Scott Nicolls

Three-and-a-half years for Matthew Petchey, 26, of Rochford

Sixteen months for Rhys Pullen, 21, of Wickford

Matthew Petchey (left) and Rhys Pullen

Five years for Thomas Randall, 22, of of Southend-on-Sea

Five years for Alexander Woods, 25, of Westcliff-on-Sea

Three years for James Woods, 25, of of Westcliff-on-Sea

Thomas Randall (left), Alexander Woods (middle) and James Woods (right)

Three men jailed for conspiracy to commit violent disorder:

Three years for Greg Allen, 29, of Westcliff-on-Sea

Three years for Phil McGill, 32, of Westcliff-on-Sea

Two-and-half-years for Michael Shawyer, 31, of Leigh-on-Sea

Greg Allen (left), Phillip McGill (middle) and Michael Shawyer (right)

She said: ‘Simon has been unwell a number of times since the attack to the point where he has been admitted to hospital, but he would always fight back.

‘There has been nothing over last few years. I guess his heart just gave up.

‘We spoke to the GP this morning and we are not sure if it will go to coroners’ court, but he died because of the hypoxic brain damage.’

Mrs Dobbin confirmed she has already spoken to Essex Police about a retrial.

In July 2017, Basildon Crown Court convicted 13 men over the attack. Nine men were found guilty of violent disorder, three of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and one of assisting an offender.

Three of the men were jailed for five years for violent disorder. Mr Dobbin attended court for the sentencing, but had to leave the room when he became upset.

In July, one of his attackers, Jamie Chambers, 27, was recalled to jail after admitting threatening behaviour and damage to a property while out on licence.

A spokesman for Cambridge United said yesterday: ‘It is with a heavy heart that Cambridge United can confirm we have received the devastating news that Simon Dobbin sadly passed away at home this morning. Sweet dreams Simon. Forever a U.

‘The thoughts of everybody at Cambridge United are with his wife Nicole, daughter Emily and his closest family and friends. We ask supporters to leave their messages of condolence for Simon’s family at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Simon.’

Also reacting to his death was Southend United fan and singer Alison Moyet, who tweeted: ‘As a SUFC fan and musician for whom Shrimpers Club was my springboard, this news is stomach churning.

‘A precious life made forfeit to thuggery and that thuggery happening in our salmon stream. Ashamed.’

Carpenter Jamie Bullock said: ‘I worked on Simon’s house for @DIYSOS and this is truly awful news, my thoughts are with his amazing family who have been through so much heartache already. RIP Simon Dobbin.’

Local councillor Tumi Hawkins added: ‘Rest in Peace Simon. You did not deserve this at all. Condolences to the Dobbin family xx’

In February, Mrs Dobbin revealed all of the ‘monsters’ who attacked her husband were already back on the street after being released from prison.

She told the Mirror: ‘It feels like a slap in the face. Every time I look at Simon, I can see the damage they caused him. They are monsters. They didn’t give any consideration to what they were doing.’

Mr Dobbin was on his way home from watching Cambridge play Southend when rival supporters poured out of the Railway Tavern pub near Prittlewell train station and ‘jumped’ a group of Cambridge fans.

One witness, speaking after the attack, said the rival fans ‘just used [Mr Dobbin] like a football’, and said he was saved by a friend who laid on top of him. 

Mr Dobbin suffered brain damage, damaged hips, broken ribs and a broken nose during the onslaught on and spent more than three weeks on life support. 

Judge David Pugh handed down sentences to 12 of the 13 men convicted of offences in the case of Simon Dobbin.

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.

The shortest sentence – 16 months – was given to Rhys Pullen, who admitted the charge of violent disorder earlier in proceedings.

A thirteenth man, Ian Young, was found guilty of assisting offenders by hiding them. He was given a suspended sentence a month after the other sentencings.

Mrs Dobbin demanded a ‘Simon’s Law’ to give tougher sentences to serious thugs in light of her husband’s attack.

Describing her proposed changes ‘Simon’s Law’, she wrote on a petition page: ‘How can someone be clinically dead for seven minutes and this be a violent public disorder? The law needs to changed around these cases and a higher sentence given.

‘I want the government to put Simon’s Law into place. Simon’s law will state that If an individual is charged and found guilty of a violent public disorder, causing harm to any other, then a percentage of earnings through employment or benefits, are taken from them and paid back to our NHS for the rest of their lives.’

In DIY SOS, more than 900 volunteers came forward to help transform the home where Mr Dobbin was sleeping in the living room and only had access to bed baths. 

Mr Dobbin is pictured with his daughter Emily (left) and wife Nicole at Cambridge United FC

Mrs Dobbin thanks the DIY SOS team for their work during the episode in January 2019

Pictured before the attack: Mr Dobbin, from Mildenhall in Suffolk, with his wife Nicole, 48

Carpenter Jamie Bullock said: ‘I worked on Simon’s house for @DIYSOS and this is truly awful news, my thoughts are with his amazing family who have been through so much heartache already. RIP Simon Dobbin’

Local councillor Tumi Hawkins added: ‘Rest in Peace Simon. You did not deserve this at all. Condolences to the Dobbin family xx’

His daughter Emily was revealed to be studying to be a paramedic and said her life had changed immeasurably since the attack.

She told the programme: ‘We were always out and about. We’d go to Felixstow and take the dog – it was me and him time. 

‘I miss talking to him. We haven’t had a conversation. I remember he would throw his arms around me and give me a hug – I miss that.

‘He is just trapped in his body. It is hard. When I walk into the room I see him smile so I know he’s happy to be around. I talk to him like he’s normal.

‘I want the future to be easier for mum and dad – something worth living for, for dad. Anything we can do to help him.’

Cambridge United fans stand to applaud Mr Dobbin at the football club’s Abbey Stadium

Mr Dobbin is pictured in hospital. A court convicted 13 men for their role in the attack in 2015

Police at the scene of the attack in Southend outside the Railway Tavern pub in the town

The team was denied permission from the council for an extension so the home had to be gutted first with internal walls and a chimney have to be removed.

The changes they made improved the lives of the whole family, including Mr Dobbin who became able to shower in a wet room.

Mrs Dobbin said that her aim was to make sure her husband had the ‘best life’ she can give him.

She told the show: ‘I don’t know how I would have lived without him. I would rather have him the way he is than not at all.’

She added: ‘The changes that DIY SOS made to the house have made life so much easier for all of us.’

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