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Family call for answers as England fan who died in Bulgaria named as Cannock man Rob Spray

By Megan Archer | Cannock | News | Published:

Rob Spray, a 32-year-old West Brom fan from Cannock, died ahead of England's match against Bulgaria on Monday.

The fundraising page showing Rob Spray, left

A Cannock man has been named as the football fan who died while following England in Bulgaria this week.

Robert Spray, a 32-year-old West Brom fan from Heath Hayes, died from currently unknown causes after being found in Sofia before the European Championship qualifying game on Monday evening.

His family claim they have received no answers about how he died.

His sister, Katie Brown, claimed there were "inaccuracies" in Bulgarian authorities' reports, which alleged her brother was acting aggressively.

She said: "He was the politest person you've ever met, a gentle giant. He was 6ft 3in. He always said he was a lover not a fighter.

"He was a massive West Bromwich Albion fan. He was very loved, you can see that from the fundraising page."

More than £15,000 has been raised on GoFundMe by friends and fellow supporters to repatriate Mr Spray's body from Bulgaria.

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Ms Brown said more than 300 people attended a gathering at the Winding Wheel pub in Heath Hayes on Tuesday night in honour of her brother, who was a regular there.

'No support'

However, she claimed they had received "no support" from the Foreign Office and had been liaising with Bulgarian authorities through Staffordshire Police.

Officers told them Mr Spray died while being transported from a hospital to a police station.

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"They're not helping us at all. The (Bulgarian) police aren't talking to our police, so Interpol are getting involved," said Ms Brown.

"There's been no 'are you OK?'. We want to go out and see what's happened but we need someone to help us because we don't know anything about Bulgaria."

Katie Brown said her family were "absolutely broken"

The Foreign Office said: "We are supporting the family of a British man who died following an incident in Sofia, and our staff are in contact with the UK and Bulgarian authorities."

The gofundme page, set up by Mr Spray's friends Roger Wootton and Sam Tongue, received £10,000 from more than 500 donors in just 12 hours.

The page says: "Don’t know exactly what’s happened but we do know Spray was the nicest softest lad everyone ever met.

"What happened is nothing but a tragedy. We all need to come together to support Spray’s family as much as we can."

Meanwhile well-known Baggies fan Mark ‘Snarka’ Whitehouse is auctioning a signed Harry Kane England shirt and Albion jersey and will donate the money to the fundraiser.

'Working to clarify the circumstances'

The Bulgarian Ministry of Interior said: "A 32-year-old man has sadly died.

"At 10am, the police received a signal to attend a man in a helpless condition, in the city centre.

"He was a foreign national, from Britain, and he was taken to hospital but he sadly died.

"Police are working to clarify all the circumstances in the incident. There is no further detail on any injuries.

"There will be a forensic examination to find out what the cause of death was."

Staffordshire Police said a family liaison officer is supporting Mr Spray's relatives, who have asked to be allowed to grieve in peace.

England won the qualifier 6-0 in a match that was marred by racist chants and gestures from sections of the Bulgarian crowd.

Bulgarian fans also directed monkey noises at England's black players during the match, which was halted twice in an effort to stop the racist abuse.

The ministry of interior said police have "detained four people, whose involvement in what happened is being clarified".

In the fallout from Monday's game, the president of the country's football federation has resigned and the Bulgarian special police forces have raided the federation offices.

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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