Alan Greaves’ head injuries were so horrific, his wife Maureen did not recognise her husband of 40 years when she first saw him in a hospital bed.
“I looked at his body and couldn’t recognise his face. For a moment, I thought, ‘It’s not Alan’,” she said.
“Then I looked at his hands and knew it was him, and I knew he wasn’t going to live.” The 68-year-old had been attacked with such force that expert witnesses told Sheffield Crown Court his injuries were more akin to those seen in victims of high-impact car crashes or falls from high buildings.
Speaking exclusively to The Star at her home in High Green, Maureen said: “I could see the trauma to his head was great. I held his hand and said a prayer and asked God to be there with Alan through his next few hours and days.”
Recalling the heartbreaking moment at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital when she was told Alan was unlikely to survive, Maureen said: “When I first got to the hospital I was asked to wait in a room.
“A consultant and a nurse came, and the consultant brought his chair up close and said ‘I’m ever so sorry but your husband has been quite badly attacked’.
“In my head I was thinking ‘Alan, attacked? Never’.
“Then he said ‘it was such as vicious attack I don’t think your husband is going to survive’. I said to him ‘are you telling me he’s dying’ and he nodded his head.”
Just three hours earlier, Maureen, aged 64, had kissed Alan goodbye as he set off on the 10-minute walk to church he had made every Christmas Eve for 40 years.
As co-ordinator of music at St Saviour’s Church, he had been due to play the organ at the midnight service.
He had even popped home shortly after leaving the house to collect his grey fleece hat – something that was to become a crucial piece of evidence in the trial.
Maureen said: “He had always walked down to the church, there was no element of fear, it was something he did every year.
“I was sitting in bed reading and waiting for Alan.
“The doorbell went and two police officers were there. I heard them say ‘your husband has had an accident and hurt his head’.
“My immediate response was ‘oh no, I hope he’s not needing stitches, it’s Christmas Day tomorrow’.”