A friend of an English football supporter who died in police custody in Bulgaria has pushed back against suggestions he had used drugs prior to his death.
Robert Spray, 32, died in Sofia on Monday after travelling to watch England play Bulgaria in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
Mr Spray, from Heath Hayes in Cannock, Staffordshire, was said to have been found in a “helpless condition” in the centre of the city and taken to hospital.
Bulgarian authorities said he then began to act aggressively and the police were called, however Mr Spray later died while being transported to a police station and it was suggested that he had used drugs.
The 32-year-old travelled to Bulgaria as part of a group of 11 friends including childhood friend Andrew McMath, who organised the trip for his own 30th birthday celebrations.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr McMath said his friend had been dismissed as a “hooligan” following his death and that suggestions Mr Spray was using drugs were being used to avoid other explanations.
He said: “Rob wasn’t taking any drugs. There were no drugs. The whole trip, I’ve not seen him try to get hold of or use any drugs. It just feels like an easy thing to say.”
Mr McMath said Mr Spray left their hotel room on Monday morning, as his friends assumed he was intending to buy food or cigarettes.
His friends later saw reports on social media that a 32-year-old had been taken to hospital before being informed Mr Spray had died.
Mr McMath said that the English football fans had been unfairly treated during the trip.
He continued: “It felt like everyone just looked at us as England hooligans or yobs and, from what people have said, it feels like that’s how he would have been treated at the hospital as well.
“He has never caused any trouble. He’s the first person you want to come on holiday because he makes you laugh and he’s just great to be around.
“You can get the idiots, but we were minding our own business and the police came over and literally pushed one lad in the back of the neck and said, ‘get gone or police cell 10 minutes’.”
He added that Mr Spray would have been “scared to death” to have woken up in an overseas hospital as an infrequent traveller who had been too scared to travel to Russia for last year’s World Cup.
The trip to Bulgaria was Mr Spray’s first trip to see England play abroad.
Toxicology reports from the Bulgarian authorities are due to be released on Friday, according to local media.
It is not yet known when Mr Spray’s body will be returned home, however a campaign to raise funds to repatriate his body had reached more than £21,000 on Thursday.
Mr Spray’s family and friends have called for the Foreign Office to launch an investigation into his death.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office previously said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who died following an incident in Sofia, and our staff are in contact with the UK and Bulgarian authorities.”