“Unless you’ve seen it and lived it, it’s so difficult to try and describe it,” Dawn Astle told CNN Sport, as she remembered looking after her father Jeff and coping with his deteriorating health. “It was just the most brutal, brutal thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Back in 2002, January 19 was supposed to be a day of celebration for the Astle family. It was Dawn’s 34th birthday.
“We’d just buried my grandmother — my mum’s mum — the day before,” recalls Dawn.
“I can see my dad now coming through the front door with mum. He didn’t really walk properly, he shuffled and walked with a stoop, his skin looked gray and his face was gaunt. He was 59 but, I kid you not, he looked 159.
“And it was while we were eating this tea, while Dad was sitting at the table, that he started to cough.
“I remember we helped him up off his chair but his legs kept giving way. With everybody in the house it was quite stuffy so we took him outside. But he just kept coughing and just coughing and you could tell it was getting worse.
“We were screaming, literally screaming, at him to spit the food out. We didn’t know whether he had food in it because he’d got his teeth gritted together and he wouldn’t open his mouth.
“We were begging with him, pleading with him, ‘spit it out, spit it out’ but he just wouldn’t do it. His legs eventually gave way so we lay him down.
“It was just the most horrific thing because, not just what was happening in front of your eyes, but because you were so helpless, you just couldn’t do anything. He basically choked to death in front of us, you know mum, me and my sisters.”