Wife of brain-damaged man wants to be ‘first person’ teen attacker sees when freed

The wife of Alan Willson has vowed to be the first person one of his attackers sees when he is released from jail.

Alan, 47, is permanently brain damaged after the savage attack by brothers Archie, 16, and George Tilley, 14, along with Harry Furlong, 18, on Easter Sunday last year as he tried to defend a boy from being bullied.

Furlong was handed a 20-month sen­­tence on June 30, of which he was due to serve half in custody, but instead could be released at the end of the month.

Annie Willson, 51, revealed to the Mirror how she is determined to sit face-to-face with Furlong.

Alan needs permanent care and is unable to speak, cannot sign his name and cannot play with his children.

He suffered catastrophic brain injuries during the attack over a frisbee row at a park in Worthing, West Sussex, after he rushed to defend an 11-year-old from being bullied by ­notorious local louts.

Furlong admitted in court he had punched Alan in the face before the brothers beat him unconscious with a 3ft log while he was on the ground.

The Tilleys were handed 12-year terms for inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, while Furlong was found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Annie is also calling for a change in the law when it comes to such serious crimes committed by youths.

In similar cases, she wants to see alleged attackers remanded on arrest, for youths to be able to be named in the media to act as a deterrent and for them to be tried as adults depending on the severity of the offence.

“When I sit and cry, and Alan sees my tears, he then begins to cry,” Annie said.

“But to get him to stop crying is a lot more effort than it is for me to stop.

“So I try not to cry. I worship the ground he walks on. He was the nicest man ever. He still is. I miss his stupid sense of humour, his high-pitched laugh, his constant I-love-yous.

“At the beginning, I was saying it would have been better if they had hit Alan one more time. Alan does not want to be a burden on anyone.”

Annie has asked Sussex Police for restorative justice, where she would get the chance to sit down with Furlong and face him.

Furlong could say no and so Annie is ensuring she will face him no matter what when he walks from prison.

“When he walks out that jail, I want to be the first thing he sees,” she said.

“I need to face him for my own peace of mind. No judge, no jury, just me and him.

“I need that closure and to get all the truth out of him, as I’m sure he held things back.

“I can’t believe he could be getting out so soon. It’s sickening.”

Step-by-step, brave Annie has tried to gain closure in her own way. She has since been to her local police station and asked to see the clothes her husband had been wearing, despite officers’ warnings they were matted with blood.

“I saw them and I’ve never seen so much blood in all my life. But I had to see them. I needed it for closure,” she said.

Lewes crown court in East Sussex showed shocking CCTV foot­­age of the three thugs re-enacting the attack at nearby Goring train station after they fled the park.

“I drove past the station recently and I forced myself to go in,” Annie said.

“I stood on the platform for a minute and looked around where they had been acting it out. I wanted to face it.”

Annie revealed how she hugged Furlong’s mum in court after he was sentenced and she apologised for what her son had done to Alan.

But such is the shock at Furlong’s eligibility for home arrest in three weeks’ time, that Annie, who had to quit her job as a carer to look after Alan, now says: “I just think ‘stay there’.

“I want all of them to know no matter where they are, I will not be far behind.”

Following the attack, Annie found her husband at the park and their lives changed for ever.

Alan was in a coma and spent three months in hospital and needed brain surgery. Half of his left ear is missing from the attack, during which he also suffered lung trauma, broken bones and fractures to his spine. As we speak, Alan looks lovingly at Annie and frequently gestures towards her to ensure that she is coping, as she tells of how difficult life has become.

“I love the bones of him. I said in sickness and in health – and I meant it,” Annie says.

Asked if they would have reacted differently if they could go back to that moment in April last year, Annie wiped a tear and said: “I would have gone.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “This was a horrific crime and our sympathies remain with Mr Will son and his family.

“Sentencing is a matter for ­independent judges and no decision has been made about whether Harry Furlong will be released on home detention curfew.

“Those who are released face strict ­conditions which, if broken, can mean they are recalled to prison.”