Ryan Passey suffered a knife wound to the heart during a dancefloor brawl while out with friends inside the packed Chicago’s venue in Stourbridge in 2017.
The 24-year-old was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, but later died.
A year later, Kobe Murray was tried for his murder, but the then-19-year-old was acquitted by a jury of the charge, along with an alternative count of manslaughter. He admitted holding a knife, but said he did not intend to harm Ryan.
Since then, the family of Ryan – including his father Ade, mother Gill and stepfather Phil – have been campaigning for justice for the young man, described by them as “an amazing, bubbly 24-year-old who loved football, his family, friends and life”.
Last July, West Midlands Police relaunched its murder investigation after an independent review by the West Yorkshire force outlined 18 recommendations, including some relating to new lines of inquiry.
And last week, the force had a breakthrough with one of two potential witnesses coming forward in response to a fresh CCTV appeal.
Mr Passey said the new inquiry and his conversations with detectives on the case had planted renewed optimism in the family campaign.
“We are more confident than ever that the West Yorkshire review along with new information obtained in the new investigation will mean we will have our day in court and we will finally achieve justice for my boy,” the 60-year-old said.
Ryan grew up in Brierley Hill and ran his own window cleaning business. The footballer moved in with his father aged 17, and the pair became like best friends, said Ade, attending sports matches and spending time together in and out of work.
Following his death, hundreds of people turned out for his church funeral in Stourbridge, while more than 50,000 have signed the family petition called “Justice for Ryan”.
Speaking from his office, Ade said: “He’d be here right now on his dinner break – saying hello, talking through things of the day. I think of him all the time, it never gets easier. No father should have to bury their own son.
“What I’ve learned is how to get strong and keep going. And that’s what we’re doing, we’ll never give up on seeking justice, or raising awareness of the tragic consequences of knife crime.
“Ryan’s sudden death leaves our lives empty and always wondering, what may have been?”
On the night Ryan died, there were more than 600 people inside the nightclub – yet police say a large number of people did not come forward. Detectives are still appealing for the second man in this month’s CCTV appeal to forward.
Mr Passey was on holiday in Devon when he got a phone call telling him his son was injured.
He said: “I drove for five hours to get back as quickly as I could. They said he was stable, but when I got up I found out the bad news. It’s hurts me to this day. You just expect your son to be at home, not in a hospital, dead.
“I wish more people would come forward. It was more than six years ago. They could make the difference for all of us and help bring this long saga to an end.”
The family have been supported by Stourbridge MP, Suzanne Webb OBE.
Last year, speaking in a debate in parliament on knife crime in the West Midlands, she claimed the acquittal of Mr Murray was a case of the jury reaching a “perverse verdict”, which is a decision made against the weight of evidence put forward.
She said: “How we can accept our justice system is fair when we accept that juries can make mistakes and wrongly convict, and there is a mechanism to appeal a wrongful conviction, and yet we do not accept that the jury can make a wrongful acquittal decision, and there is currently no mechanism for appeal.”
Meanwhile, the family are also working hard to raise awareness over knife crime, carrying out visits to schools and youth sports clubs in a bid to stop young people carrying blades in the region.
Latest figures, show that in 2022/23, West Midlands Police recorded the highest rate of offences involving a knife in the country.
DI Jim Church, leading the police reinvestigation, said: “Our focus is on Ryan’s family and we will continue to work with them as that investigation progresses.”