Paul Lavelle, 50, died in May last year after being attacked by Sarah Lewis, 46, with a broken dinner plate.
His grieving best mate Paul Gladwell, 49, from Birkenhead, and heartbroken brother Andy Lavelle, 47, believe if he had opened up to his friends it may have saved his life.
For 30 years Paul Lavelle, described as a ‘joker’ who ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’, followed Everton around Europe and visited the pub with his friends every week.
But when he met Sarah on Plentyoffish.com this came to an end and he also slowly stopped seeing his family.
Months later he was found dead in a pool of blood at his flat on Old Chester Road, Rock Ferry.
Sarah, of Croxteth Avenue, Seaforth, was jailed for seven and a half years after pleading guilty to manslaughter during a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Friend Paul and brother Andy told of the story in their own words – and the powerful legacy they want to leave.
“I first met Paul in the Swan in Prenton in 1988 – I was 19, Paul was 21. I had a Pink Floyd concert t-shirt on and he came over and said he loved my top.
He was with a load of Everton fans and I was with a load of Evertonians and next thing we all went the game. You had 40 odd lads who ended up being mates ever since then”.
“There were about 40-50 lads and we used to all go the Everton games home and away.
Paul was a comedy genius who would sit in the middle of 40 lads in Benidorm and have everyone in hysterics. He was comedy gold and a very good mate who would always be there for you if you needed it.
He met his partner on online dating – it was Plentyoffish.com but while he was with her I think I must’ve seen him twice. I never ever saw her, nobody did really. He never told us about her.”
“He once came round to ours to fit an alarm and he was just very quiet – he’s not a quiet person. He just sat down and said “mine’s a crank” – referring to his girlfriend. He wanted us to ask him more about her but we never did.
He did used to go to the game – and then that stopped. He stopped going for a pint on a Sunday afternoon. He didn’t turn up to a wedding a couple of months previously.
We used to text him and he wouldn’t get back to us.”
“The night that it happened he should’ve been at a 40th party which he was invited to. The next morning I got a phonecall from a neighbour saying you’d better get up to Lavvy’s flat – we think he’s been killed.
So we drove up and she was sitting in the police car on her phone laughing away to her mates. Then we had to make the difficult decision then to tell his family.
Lads being victims of domestic violence is more prevalent than we know.”
“And now you look back after it happened all of his friends had heard little things and when you put it all together – nobody knew.
I think he didn’t come forward to the lads and ask for help because he was afraid of lads having banter with him. He might’ve thought we’d have taken the mickey out of him because he couldn’t deal with a woman.
But now I want people to stop and think. Your friends have a duty of care to open up their eyes and see if something is going on.”
“Paul was a great kid and a great adult who had your back wherever you went. I remember that we used to go the game as a kid with me dad. He was a fun kid who loved his football and enjoyed making games up, there was never a dull moment. There’s a fine line between genius and madness – and that could just about sum our Paul up.
But he changed when he met Sarah off Plentyoffish. He didn’t bring her around to family occasions. You know when you get together as families – in the past he brought other partners but not her.
You weren’t getting the texts you used to get. You’d invite him to go to the match – it wouldn’t be an excuse he’d just say I can’t be a***d. I think it was because she started isolating him from his friends and family.
She tortured us by not admitting what she had done.
We were in the gym and he showed me his stab wound but said it was a screwdriver and he’d done it while in work. The police had been called to numerous occasions to the property, she had punched him in the face previously.
I wonder why he never said anything then. I think, do you want to admit as a man that you’re getting hit by your woman and you can’t do anything about that?
If I could say one thing to him now I’d shake him – why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you speak to me or your friends?
There’s no need for him to be lying in the ground now. All because he didn’t speak out. I’d say to men in a similar situation – speak to anyone, there’s no need to be ashamed of it, just get it off your chest, that little first move might save your life.”