Man jailed for killing "loved" Sheffield Wednesday fan Richard Wheeler who was caring for wife with cancer

"This year was supposed to be a celebration. Now all I have is an urn."
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A 20-year-old man has been imprisoned for manslaughter after a punch to the face of Richard Wheeler, 56, caused his death earlier this year.

Liam Jones assaulted him close to The Bessemer pub in Sheffield city centre, at around 11.10pm on Saturday, July 15.

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Mr Wheeler fell, hitting the back of his head on the pavement. He was taken to hospital in critical condition, where he died ten days later.

His wife, Tracy Wheeler, said: “I was hoping and praying he would pull through. I wouldn't leave his side. Never will I come to terms with having him taken from me.

Richard Wheeler tragically died on July 25, 2023.Richard Wheeler tragically died on July 25, 2023.
Richard Wheeler tragically died on July 25, 2023.

“Watching him pass was traumatic, and that image will stay with me forever.

“He was my rock, emotionally and physically. He helped me through treatment last year for breast cancer. I have one more operation but I can't bring myself to go through it alone. 

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“I feel anger and hatred for the person who is responsible for my living life alone. No matter how much it hurts, I owe it to Richard to see that justice is served.”

“This year should have been a celebration - my 50th birthday, our 10-year wedding anniversary, 30 years together, and beating breast cancer.

“Now all I have is an urn.”

Liam Jones has been sentenced to seven years in prison.Liam Jones has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Liam Jones has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

The public gallery was full, with Mr Wheeler’s friends and family occupying the majority of the crowd.

He was a dedicated Sheffield Wednesday fan and a supporter of the New England Patriots American Football team, as well as a keen runner and cyclist.

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Her Honour Judge Sarah Wright said: “The pain and trauma of his wife’s experience is unimaginable. She has shown courage reading out her victim personal statement in court.

“Her words powerfully show the untold damage that such mindless violence can cause. 

“She faces the rest of her life agonisingly alone, and her loss is immeasurable.”

A man was glassed in his face in an attack in Maggie May's in Sheffield city centreA man was glassed in his face in an attack in Maggie May's in Sheffield city centre
A man was glassed in his face in an attack in Maggie May's in Sheffield city centre

The fatal assault followed an incident earlier in the night, at Maggie Mays on Trippet Lane, between members of the same groups.

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After leaving and coming back into the venue, Jones struck two men with a glass and headbutted another.

Judge Wright added: “This was shocking, appalling violence in a public place.

“Whether it was related to football or not, you had been intent on violence.”

At the time of the first incident at Maggie Mays, Jones wore a Sheffield United football shirt and jacket.

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Judge Wright added: “You have used your allegiance to a football club to justify your use of violence, justifying it to yourself and others.”

“You are clearly a young man lacking maturity and have learnt little from previous incidents.”

Jones’ previous offences included punching an opposition fan in the street, threatening behaviour, and throwing a missile at a football match.

At a Sheffield United match against Fulham, he was seen activating a firework and throwing it at others.

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Jones pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter, two counts of Grievous Bodily Harm, one count of Actual Bodily Harm, one count of Possession of an Offence Weapon, and one of Affray.

He has been jailed for seven years, with an extended three years on licence in the community.

Mr Wheeler’s family said in a statement: “Please be respectful for the grieving family and friends of Rich who was a deeply loved and very liked man.

“He went out for a night out and never came home, no one should lose a loved one in this way. His spirit will always be with us”.