A man murdered in Sheffield a week ago died before ever getting to meet the son he had longed to know, The Star can reveal today.
Jon-Paul Smith, aged 42, who was known to his friends as JP, was killed on a night out on West Street in the city centre.
Nobody has so far been charged over his death.
Today his heartbroken family told The Star that Jon-Paul, originally from Bootle, Liverpool, but who had lived in Sheffield for 20 years, had hoped he was on the verge of getting in touch with the teenage son he’d never met.
Brother-in-law Richard Stacey said: “He has a son who lives in Sheffield.
“He hoped to meet him once his son had turned 18.
“His son turned 18 last week, but Jon-Paul never did get the opportunity to meet him.
“The hope of meeting his son was one of the reasons he always stayed in Sheffield.”
Richard, from London, travelled to Sheffield for a memorial service at City Life Church in Shalesmoor, where family, friends and church members came together to share their memories and celebrate Jon-Paul’s life.
Jon-Paul, of St George’s Close, Netherthorpe, was a member of the church and attended its service every Sunday.
Richard, married to Jon-Paul’s sister Sharon, described Jon-Paul as a ‘popular, caring and giving’ man, who was recovering from alcoholism.
“He had a few personal problems, and moved to Sheffield in his 20s for rehabilitation,” he said. “He decided to stay, and made the city his home.
“He loved the people and had lots of good friends, mainly through the church and Alcoholics Anonymous. People make judgements on that, but he was a really great person.
“He was rebuilding his life, and had made tremendous progress in giving up alcohol.
“He was trying to start giving things back to the city, to thank everyone for their support, but that has been taken away from him too, which is really upsetting.”
Police were called at 11.50pm last Friday to the junction of West Street and Eldon Street.
Jon-Paul had sustained life-threatening injuries and was rushed to hospital where he died on Saturday.
Church pastor Jim Master, who had known Jon-Paul for three-and-a-half-years, led the tributes.
He said: “The news of Jon-Paul’s death came as a real shock - I was totally devastated. He was a very popular member of the church and a real character.
“He gave his heart to the Lord and is in a peaceful life somewhere else now. We believe he is in heaven. I’m grateful I knew him.”
Jon-Paul’s sister Sharon spoke of her ‘darling brother’.
“I’m so very proud of the strength you showed over the past six years as you successfully rebuilt your life,” she told the service. “We were closer than at any other point. I’m grateful for all the memories that will carry me through my grief.”
Friend Katy Lee, from Jordanthorpe, said her family had become Jon-Paul’s Sheffield family, and described him as ‘the son her mum never had’.
She said: “I introduced Jon-Paul to my family and they all came to love him.
“He was a lovable rogue and really caring – he was so keen to give something back and wanted to do charity work.
“His compassion for others shone through. I feel very blessed I was able to call JP my friend.”
Three men have been arrested and bailed in connection with Jon-Paul’s death.