Dad dies six weeks after cancer news as tributes paid to Newcastle United fan

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Barry Sweeney was diagnosed with cancer six weeks ago (Image: Iain Buist / Newcastle Chronicle)
Barry Sweeney was diagnosed with cancer six weeks ago (Image: Iain Buist / Newcastle Chronicle)

The dad of a Brit who died in the MH17 plane crash tragedy has died - six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

Barry Sweeney, from Longbenton, a popular referee and avid Newcastle United fan, sadly passed away, after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just over a month ago. His son Liam lost his life in the MH17 plane crash.

The 61-year-old devoted Magpies fan was a familiar face across Tyneside following the 2014 disaster and was also a prominent figure in grassroots football. Tributes have flooded in from across the region today.

Andrew Rose-Cook, who is Chief Executive of the Northumberland FA said: “He was a massive idol for a lot of younger referees. He is a fantastic example both off the pitch and on the pitch. He was just a really really top guy and he will be sorely missed.”

Dad dies six weeks after cancer news as tributes paid to Newcastle United fan eideziqkeiqhhinvThe dad was a popular figure in grassroots football across the north east (newcastle chronicle)
Dad dies six weeks after cancer news as tributes paid to Newcastle United fanLiam Sweeney, Barry's son, who died in the MH17 disaster (MDM)

On Facebook Newcastle West End FC wrote: "Everyone involved with Newcastle West End FC are saddened to hear of the sad passing of Barry Sweeney a well known and respected match official in the North East. Barry always brought a fun energetic approach to football and was very well liked by everyone. Our thoughts are with Barry’s extended family, friends and colleagues at this sad time."

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A close friend of Barry’s told the Mirror: “Barry wasn’t only a friend but a huge supporter of The Bradley Lowery Foundation. He travelled the country providing his services as a referee for the charity matches the Foundation had and never asked for a single thing in return. He made friends everywhere he went. There won’t be a single bad word said about him. Reunited with his son Liam after many years of fighting for justice.”

Barry’s son, also a devoted Toon fan, Liam, 28, from Killingworth and John Alder, 63, were travelling to New Zealand to watch the Magpies in a pre-season friendly when they died. They were killed, alongside 296 others on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, when it was shot down while travelling from Amsterdam to Malaysia on July 17, 2014.

Their death united football fans from across the North East in mourning, ChronicleLive reported, with Sunderland and Newcastle supporters coming together to raise money in their memory. Barry told of his pride at seeing the rival fans come together.

In 2014 after watching Sunderland beat Newcastle 1-0 at St James Park he told the Chronicle: “Unfortunately we didn’t win. But in days of old I would have been gutted by that. I obviously still wanted Newcastle to win but I would have been happy with a draw this time. It was a derby match and it was bragging rights, but what happened to Liam puts life in perspective.

"“The Sunderland fans came up trumps. They showed total respect for Liam and John. I think the atmosphere seemed less hostile than in the past, even though everyone was passionate. I will admit that in the past I have got a bit over-excited on derby day, but it is only a game, and it was played in the right spirit today.”

In November last year Barry travelled to the Netherlands to hear the verdict after four defendants stood trial at The Hague accused of murdering the plane passengers.

During the trial, which lasted more than two-and-a-half years, none of the suspects attended court to answer the charges.

Three people were convicted of the murders of all 298 people on board the MH17 flight and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were Russians defendants Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Ukrainian defendant Leonid Kharchenko.

A fourth defendant, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted due to lack of evidence. The Russian, who was represented by defence lawyers, had insisted he was innocent in a video recording played in court

Barry said at the time: "When I heard the verdict I felt a bit numb. Three out of four got a sentence but it doesn't really change a lot because they're not going to go to jail.

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"It's still good that they've been accused and found guilty, at least that's a step forward. But we have still lost 298 people that didn't need to be lost and we're never going to get them back. It will never end but at least we know now they were murdered so that is a help.

"It was emotional. When I got back to the hotel I was totally drained. I think it took it out of everybody. It's been a long time coming. It's been coming for eight years and four months."

Sophie Doughty

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