Robert Sebbage: Inquest Into Zante Death

Friends of a former England football mascot who was stabbed to death while on holiday in Greece have told an inquest how a taxi driver flew into an ''uncontrollable'' rage and attacked them.

Robert Sebbage, 18, from Tadley, Basingstoke, was killed on the island of Zante on July 13.

Mr Sebbage was on holiday with eight friends when he was killed during their last night out when the group got into an argument with two taxi drivers.

Four others were also stabbed during the incident.

The inquest at Basingstoke heard how the group had been out for a few drinks on their last big night of the holiday and were walking to a McDonald's restaurant when they were followed by two taxis.

The front taxi ''nudged'' the leg of another friend, Callum Lane, leading him to sit on the bonnet and banter being passed between the group.

The inquest was told that the group had witnessed a drunk being sick in the same taxi earlier in the week and they had created a chant of the driver's words ''Get out of my car'' which they then began to sing again that night.

After that taxi driver had driven off, the friends got their food and as they sat on the kerb to eat it, they noticed that the driver of the second taxi had pulled over and was sat on the boot of his vehicle and staring at them.

The driver then confronted the group, particularly Mr Sebbage and Jordan Manson, and threatened them with a baseball bat.

Steven Granstone said:

''Rob was jumping up and down, he was probably winding the guy up but he didn't deserve what happened to him.''

A laser pen was then shone at the driver and the group continued shouting at the driver who returned and began attacking them.

Mr Granstone said that Mr Manson, who suffered serious chest and stomach wounds, was the first to be attacked followed by Mr Sebbage.

The teenager described how the taxi driver then turned on him and Sam Champion.

Mr Granstone, who was stabbed in the back, said:

''He had a clenched fist and took a swing at me.

''I felt him hit me and I stumbled. I felt something warm on my back and I brought my hand back and saw it covered in blood.''

He said that he then saw Mr Sebbage lying on the ground.

He added:

''It all happened so quickly. I could see Rob's T-shirt was covered in blood, he was pale-skinned but he had turned all white.''

He said that it was only later that the reality began to sink in and he still suffered flashbacks.

He said: ''I was scared and angry and very upset, by now I knew Rob had died.''

Describing the taxi driver, he added: ''He was uncontrollable, I think he knew who he wanted to get.''

Mr Manson described how he was chased down an alleyway by the taxi driver and another man where he was stabbed in the chest and suffered a punctured lung.

He said: ''I didn't realise what had happened, I thought I had just been punched.''

Mr Lane, who suffered a stab wound to his lower abdomen, said he saw the taxi driver clenching a 4in flick-knife with the blade protruding between his fingers.

He said police were ''very slow'' in assisting the group.

Mr Champion, who was stabbed twice in the back and had also seen the knife, said:

''I couldn't believe what I had seen. I turned around and felt I was hit twice in the back. I ran a little further before I collapsed.''

Dominic Luckman, who escaped without being stabbed, said that the laser pens had upset the taxi driver.

He said: ''I could see it was really winding him up. He was unhappy when he came back towards us.''

He added:

''The taxi driver punched Rob in the stomach then everyone, all my friends, started dropping.

''I didn't know what to do, I was shocked and didn't know what was going on.''

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, North Hampshire Coroner Andrew Bradley praised the group of friends for their bravery.

He said that Mr Sebbage died from a single stab wound to the heart.

He said:

''On the night in question, there is a melee in the street. I have no doubt the lads did their bit in causing that, that seems to be common ground.

''They had all had a good time and it all started going wrong.

''The taxi driver arms himself with a baseball bat, goes back to the vehicle and switches that for a flick-knife with which he runs amok and does a monumental amount of damage, principally to Robert, and that's the event that kills Robert.

''Robert is not aware of what happens, he collapses very quickly and I suspect he died in the street.''

Criticising the local emergency services, he added:

''It's right to note the response of the authorities and the inability of them to take it seriously is significant.

''Having said that, the nature of Robert's injuries were such that he was not going to recover.''

Passing on his condolences to Mr Sebbage's family and friends, he said:

''I do not know how you get over it, time passes on and things fade but it will always be with you.

''I hope you get it in some proportion, but for your efforts for Robert, thank you.''

Mr Sebbage's parents, Andy and Rhian, sobbed during the inquest in Basingstoke.

A statement released on behalf of the parents and Robert's brothers, Martin and Steven, said:

''There are no words that can express or explain how devastated we are at the loss of our son, brother and friend.

''Robert was loved and admired by so many people, for his wit, his courage and determination to lead a normal life, despite the long-term illness that he lived with for 18 years.

''His stoic attitude and stubbornness got him through some real tough times.

''His determination ensured that he lived life to the full and achieved so much in his short life.

''He and his friends were so excited to be going on their first holiday alone and enjoyed planning all of the things that they were going to do on holiday.

''From the chat we had with Robert on the telephone on the afternoon that our lives changed forever, we know that the holiday had been going well.

''None of us can change what happened to Robert and his friends on that awful night in Zante. However we have to hang on to all the good times we shared together.''

The funeral took place on August 4 at St Mary's Church in Basingstoke with his two brothers among those carrying his coffin into the service.

The Reading fan battled with a rare bowel condition and walked out as an England mascot at Wembley with David Beckham in June 2007.

Taxi driver Stelios Morfis, 21, has been charged with the murder of Mr Sebbage. Another man, Dimosthenes Mylonas, 25, has been charged as an accomplice.