THE partner of a man left with life-changing injuries by a one-punch assault has spoken of her decision to confront his attacker in her quest for the truth.

Caroline Sykes’s world was turned upside down when Simon Hackett, her partner of 17 years, was punched in the face and knocked to the ground as he walked home from a night out in Buttershaw.

Mr Hackett, 37, suffered catastrophic head and brain injuries which have left him unable to talk or walk and totally dependent on nursing care.

His family was unsure if he would even survive the attack, which has left him needing 16 operations to date.

In March last year, 20-year-old Jordan Docherty was sentenced to four years in a young offender institution, his punishment reduced by one year for pleading guilty.

Now, on the second anniversary of the devastating attack, Ms Sykes, 47, has spoken about meeting Docherty as part of the restorative justice programme which brings together people harmed by crime and conflict and those responsible for it.

“I feel that families and friends of the person who has been left in such a bad place, like Simon, that if they were to take a little of time to go through things with them and do what I did, it does make you feel better,” Ms Sykes said.

Her driving force behind meeting Docherty, of Worthing Head Road, Wyke, was a simple one: to ask ‘why?’.

Before he was sentenced, Bradford Crown Court heard how scaffolder Mr Hackett had walked away from trouble after an argument was said to have ensued outside Buttershaw Lane Working Men’s Club between him and Docherty’s younger cousin.

Docherty was still angry about what had happened and, despite being restrained by others, broke free and followed Mr Hackett, punching him in the face.

The force of the blow caused him to fall back and hit his head on the ground causing his catastrophic injuries.

Ms Sykes said: “I asked why had he done it. He said he was like a raging bull. Simon had done nothing wrong.

“He’d (Docherty) had an argument with his girlfriend that evening at the party and he said that he was full of cheap drinks.

“I know, my hand on heart, that Simon would not have done anything.

“But there were things getting said, as Chinese whispers do, and I was going there to actually see what had happened.

“My thoughts were right, that he hadn’t done anything and he (Docherty) openly admitted he had not done anything.

“So I think that was brave of him really, to say he had not done anything, because of the extent of what he had done.”

She added that she was pleased she had gone through the process, which gave her the chance to explain the traumatic impact on her family of the senseless attack.

“I felt a lot better,” she said.

“It has given me a little bit of closure because I knew that Simon would have done nothing. He’s got a really good personality, would help anybody in need.

“He would have never bothered anybody. It’s a case of, he (Docherty) saying, many times, ‘I’m really sorry for what’s happened’.

“He said he didn’t realise the extent of what this was going to be.

“I said, if you had not put your hands on him in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Ms Sykes said Docherty confessed to her that there was no reason for the attack.

“He thought he was going to hit him and then another day would be another day,” she said. “But it’s the injury, the impact of it.

“I made it very clear, while his probation officer was there, that if we lose Simon in the future to any severity of this injury, for example a seizure, that we will be bringing him back to Bradford Crown Court for a re-trial and he’ll be coming back for manslaughter.

“He got a bit cocky then and said ‘I’ll just go back and do my time then, won’t I?’.”

During their meeting, Docherty looked through a file of pictures prepared by Ms Sykes showing the heartbreaking extent and impact of her partner’s injuries.

“He had to digest who Simon was before and what we see now and what he has done,” Ms Sykes said.

“He saw him as he was and he saw him without his skull and he saw him on Christmas Day when he was nearly dying.

“He looked mortified – he looked mortified that that’s what he had done.

“Restorative Justice kept saying ‘is there anything you want to say to Caroline?’ and he kept saying ‘I’m sorry for what I have done’.

“He did say ‘I can’t do anything in here, but if there’s anything I can do when I get out then I would do’.

“I said he needs 24-hour care for the rest of his life, whatever life he has got left, there’s nothing you would be able to do.”

As Docherty’s release date of January 2018 nears, Ms Sykes says she feels he will “go on and get on with his life” while their lives have been left in tatters.

And Ms Sykes said that despite Docherty’s repeated apologies, ‘sorry’ will not change things and their lives have been forever ruined.

Mr Hackett is now being cared for by The Hollybank Trust, but it is hoped he will be able to move back home once adaptations, including an extension, are made to the house.

It’s that goal which Ms Sykes and their 13-year-old daughter are focusing on.

“We’re really looking forward to him coming home, because this is his home,” she said.

“We had only lived here 11 months when it happened to him.

“A lot of the time, it has always been day by day because you’re not able to plan anything.

“We’re looking forward to him coming home – that’s what we have always wanted to achieve.

“He has survived. Because of the extent of the injury, it was very uncertain that he was ever going to survive.

“I think that’s why I’ve always held on seeing him every day, because I didn’t know if he would be here tomorrow.

“We’ve had to keep strong. You have your breaking points, we’ve had to keep strong for one another.”

She added: “People have said ‘Simon has been lucky to have you’ – but I don’t look at like that because we’re a team.

“We have always been a team.

“He’s always gone out and worked hard for us to have a quality of life.

“He used to go out of this door at quarter past six in the morning and work in all weathers, no matter what it was, and he always used to call us his princesses and look after us.

“So that’s why we are here for him.”

She continued: “It’s devastation, it’s trauma. The home doesn’t seem right with him not being here. I’ve left everything as it was.

“His PlayStation, his slippers. It’s like you grieve every day.”

Ms Sykes said the attack has had a huge impact on their daughter, who keeps asking when her dad will be returning home.

“To have to see her dad in this way, she has been strong,” she said.

“Everybody says the same, how she has coped with it, they don’t know.

“But I say she has kept strong for her dad as well.

“She misses the father-daughter thing. They used to go fishing a lot, they used to go walking and cycling a lot. She misses that.”

Despite their heartache, she says Mr Hackett is a “soldier” and says they hold on to hope for the future.

Since the attack, Ms Sykes has backed West Yorkshire Police’s ‘One Punch Can Kill’ campaign.

She said it was important to get awareness out and urged people to think about the potential consequences of throwing a punch.

“There’s too much of it, when they go out, they are getting drunk,” she said.

“Think before you hit someone.”

Last year, West Yorkshire Police Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen praised Ms Sykes’ courage in speaking out.

“What takes a fleeting moment to happen can live with people forever,” he said.

“Generally it’s young men involved and the common denominator is alcohol.

“Victims’ families are left alone to face life without a husband, partner, brother or son and although people don’t have a great deal of sympathy for those who throw the devastating punch, their lives and their families’ lives are ruined too and sometimes these are people who have never offended before.

“In Simon’s case he had his life in front of him with a young family whose lives have now been torn apart by an individual who knew what he was doing.

“People were getting in his way to stop him but he still threw that punch.”