A gang of 13 men have been convicted for their roles in a “ferocious attack” on a football fan that left him with permanent brain damage.
Cambridge United fan Simon Dobbin has been unable to walk or talk after he was set upon as he walked to Prittlewell station in Southend following his team’s 0-0 away draw with Southend United, Basildon Crown Court heard.
Jurors returned verdicts on Friday following a six-week trial, with nine men convicted of violent disorder, three found guilty of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and a 13th man found guilty of assisting an offender, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, said Mr Dobbin was among the Cambridge United fans who had stayed for a post-match drink in the Blue Boar, the designated pub for away supporters, on March 21 2015.
During the trial, the jury heard that the defendants scouted out locations as they planned the attack in revenge for a fight earlier in the day in which Mr Dobbin, 44, had no involvement.
They ambushed the small group of Cambridge United supporters and during the violence Mr Dobbin was kicked and stamped on repeatedly, the court heard.
Eight men were found guilty of violent disorder, alongside Rhys Pullen, 21, of Bridge Road, Wickford, who had already admitted the charge.
They are: Ryan Carter, 21, of York Road, Southend; Jamie Chambers, 24, of Coleman Road, Southend; Lewis Courtnell, 34, of Stadium Road, Southend; Scott Nicholls, 40, of Little Spenders, Basildon; Matthew Petchey, 26, of Lascelles Gardens, Rochford; Thomas Randall, 22, of Seaforth Avenue, Southend; Alexander Woods, 25, of Fairmead Avenue, Westcliff, and James Woods, 25, of Fairmead Avenue, Westcliff.
Three men were cleared of violent disorder, but found guilty of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. They are Greg Allen, 29, of Western Avenue, Westcliff; Phil McGill, 32, of Hornby Gardens, Rochford, and Michael Shawyer, 31, of Belgrave Road, Leigh-on-Sea.
Ian Young, 41, of Brightwell Avenue, Westcliff, was cleared of conspiracy to commit violent disorder but found guilty of assisting an offender by hiding the group while police were conducting a search.
Douglas Mackay, from the CPS, said: “These men set out on that Saturday with the intention of getting involved in the most horrific violence. Their victims were chosen at random and were entirely innocent.
“The jury agreed with the prosecution that each of these men played an active part in planning or carrying out this shocking attack.
“Mr Dobbin and his family have been through an unimaginable ordeal. I can only hope these verdicts bring some sense of justice for them.”
The group were all remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Monday.
Mr Dobbin’s wife Nicole said: “Although he is alive, Simon no longer has a life. And not only did those responsible destroy Simon’s life, but they took mine also.”
She added: “Without the courageous paramedics and policemen on scene, he would not be here today. Without them, this would have been a murder trial.
“I’m just so thankful that I have the support of my parents, siblings and close friends.
“This nightmare will never end for us.”
Their daughter Emily said her father now cries at anything violent on TV and struggles to watch the football.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said that the convicted men “acted together as a pack of animals”.
“Within minutes a thoroughly decent man was left with a devastating brain injury,” he said.
“It was always my intention to identify and bring to justice the person or persons directly responsible for Mr Dobbin’s assault.
“Sadly that was not to be. However that aspect of the case remains open and I appeal to anyone who has information to come forward either directly to my team or confidentially via Crimestoppers.”