It was the ultimate “lads trip”.
Thirty friends from Manchester spending a week in Benidorm to mark a pal’s 50th birthday and watching the 2018 World Cup.
They arrived on Thursday June 21 with high hopes for Gareth Southgate’s England who had already won their first game three days earlier, defeating Tunisia 2-1 thanks to an injury time goal from Harry Kane.
The next day Mike Rydings, a builder grandad-of-four from Wythenshawe, and the rest of the party went into town, visiting venues on Avenue de Mallorca – a strip of bars and clubs.
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A life-long Manchester United fan, Mike and some of the group inevitably visited the Stretford End sports bar.
Described by his sister as the “life and soul of the party” he would have been in his element.
By the time he moved on to the Hippodrome bar after midnight he was accompanied by just one other from the party as the others went back to their holiday apartments.
It was there that in a second his life would change forever and ultimately Greater Manchester Police would be left with an unsolved murder investigation.
The football fan dad had an argument with a man from another group. It escalated outside the bar and he suffered a head injury from which he would never recover – dying over a year later aged 48.
Mike’s sister, Nikki Howard, told the Manchester Evening News : “Mike spent 13 months in Salford Royal Hospital on the Critical Care Unit where he was unable to speak or move.
“Only his eyes were his very limited communication via blinking although most of the time his injury was so extreme that very often Mike was completely unaware of where he was, who his family were and more importantly, who he was.
“At the age of 47-years-old, a father and a grandfather, his life had changed forever relying on every single medical resource available in order for him to survive, unable to breathe unaided, unable to tell you how he was feeling, unable to even hold your hand.
“And it happened due to one vicious incident, in an instant but this nightmare did not end there.
“After extensive medical intervention, family daily visits and praying that Mike would recover and be able to live the rest of his life, it was cut short.
“His condition was never going to improve; his quality of life was so limited that the kindest but incredibly heart-breaking decision was to let him go.”
Mike took his last breath and died on August 11, 2019, leaving his “totally devastated and his friends in despair”.
His sister added: “How could a 50th celebration end in such a tragic way?
“Mike was a father, grandfather, son, brother, nephew, cousin and friend to many.
“Mike was full of energy, the life and soul of the party; a practical joker, generous to a fault, enjoying all aspects of life and his beloved Manchester United.”
‘Life and soul of the party’
While in hospital at Salford his family believe he was able to recognize them, but was never able to express in words what had happened to him.
Detective Inspector Nicola McCulloch of the force’s Major Incident Team, said: “This happened in a very busy area in Benidorm, which is the main strip.
“There are two clubs the Hippodrome and the Bahamas Bar and Mike has come from the Hippodrome. But there were people congregating on the strip between these bars, on the street, because it was so busy.
“Because it’s the World Cup that’s why I’m hoping people will remember it more than just a holiday in Benidorm that was some time in June.
“You have a lot of people around and Mike is struck to the head, it seems to have been an arm swing, but struck is the most accurate way of describing it based on what witnesses saw.
“That has caused a heavy fall backwards and a very loud strike of his head on the ground, which is what alerts a number of witnesses to the incident because, they hear what they describe as a ‘sickening sound’.
“Mike never recovered from that in any meaningful way.
“He was able to communicate through blinking. He was hospitalized in Spain and then six weeks later was repatriated back to the UK, with friends and family raising over £ 20,000 for that.”
Mike was cared for at Salford Royal Hospital, a regional major trauma center for head injuries.
He succumbed to those injuries nearly 14 months later and died on August 11 2019, aged 48. He had suffered a catastrophic head injury.
Detective Inspector McCulloch said: “It is classified as a murder investigation.
“The incident has occurred in Spain, so the lead investigative authority is the Spanish police.
“Because Mike died in the UK over 12 months later a that point GMP became involved.”
Mike’s inquest is due to take place in April.
But GMP, who have already traced eight witnesses, are hoping others with information to help identify the killer can be found.
Mike was attacked between 2am and 3am on Saturday June 23, 2018. He was wearing a red Boss T-shirt at the time.
There was an investigation by the Spanish police which has concluded without anyone being prosecuted.
“The family deserves to find out what happened to Mike. They are devastated.
“He’s gone out for a drink with his friends and never come back properly to them. He’s gone out for a good time and it has taken such a tragic turn of events.
“Mike has been in the Hippodrome bar where he has appeared to have a verbal argument with a man from a group of five or six other men.
“We do not know what it was about because people could not hear anything because the music was too loud.
“The group have been pushed outside to the communal walk way area and it seems the argument has flared up again between Mike and this other man, which has then resulted in Mike being struck to the head,” said Detective Inspector McCulloch.
Key witnesses could be from Merseyside
She believes there could be key witnesses to the attack from the Merseyside area.
The attacker was white, aged 20s to 30s larger than average build between 5ft 7 and 6ft.
He was in a group of five to six men and he is believed to be English. He was possibly wearing camouflage or army-type clothing.
On that day in the World Cup Brazil beat Costa Rica 2-0; Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0; and Serbia lost 2-1 to Switzerland.
On the night of the attack most of Mike’s group had retuned to the apartments they were staying in as the night progressed, leaving just Mike and two others.
Detective Inspector McCulloch added: “He was only actually with one of his other friends when he went into the Hippodrome.
“I am trying to find additional witnesses to Mike’s assault and who was responsible for the catastrophic injury that he suffered, resulting in his death.
‘Mike’s family deserves justice’
“I’m hoping that someone can think back and say I know my boyfriend, my brother, my friend went to Benidorm to watch football and he told me he had a fight with someone on a particular night.
“They (the culprit) may not have realized how serious it was, but it has had devastating consequences to a family, and they want justice and they want to know who is responsible.
“It may be that people’s friendships and alignments change, now they can come forward and tell us who that person might be, and we can investigate it and see if that’s right.
“The family deserves to find out what happened to Mike and Mike deserves that justice.”
Eight holidaymakers who were independent witnesses to the assault have been found by GMP.
Some gave Mike immediate medical care and put him in the recovery position, tried to calm his friend, and called the police.
“Because there was no police scene the following day and nothing was in the papers, they just assumed he was okay.”
More than three and a half years after he was attacked Mike’s family still hopes the man who took his life will be identified.
Mike’s heartbroken sister added: “Someone somewhere knows who this person is.
“Were you with him? Is he your friend or partner? All Mike’s family and friends want is some justice for him.
“The person who did this is continuing to live a full life, but he could repeat this attack on a member of your family and change your life forever!
“We as a family have a huge hole in it which can and never will be filled.
“Mike has missed out on so much already and will continue to do so which we can not change. But we can change the fact that he died without justice.
“Please, please let the police know if you have any information at all, no matter how small you think it may be, it takes more than one piece to complete a jigsaw.”
Anyone with information should call GMP’s Major Incident Team on 0161 856 6777, quoting Operation Thurston.