Family pay tribute to dad with a 'huge heart' after suspected Christmas Day assault in Newbottle

The family of a much-loved son and dad who died following a suspected assault on Christmas Day near Houghton-le-Spring have issued a heartfelt tribute to him.

39-year-old Simon Birch, known to many as ‘Birchie’, was found with a serious injury consistent with having been caused by a bladed article. He died at the scene.

Officers immediately launched an investigation into the incident and a man has since been charged with Simon’s murder.

Shortly before 11.20pm on Saturday, officers were alerted by the ambulance service that a man had been injured at an address on Sunderland Road in Newbottle.

Today, Simon’s family have paid their own tributes to a man whose smile “would light up a room”.

His parents, Ian and Jennifer Birch, said: “Simon was a much-loved son, father, brother and uncle. He had so many friends and was loved by so many who knew him.

“He lived life in the fast lane. He loved his cars and motorbikes, was full of energy and was the life and soul of any party. Whenever he was around, his smile would light up a room".

Simon’s devastated daughters, 18-year-old Brogan and 13-year-old Georgie, added: “He was always there to support us and would give us the biggest hug, telling us how much he loved us.

“He had the biggest and kindest heart. He would always protect us, no matter what, and was always there if we ever needed anything.

“It’s hard to put into words how much he will be missed by all who knew him.”

Detective Inspector Graeme Barr, of Northumbria Police, is leading the investigation into Simon’s death and has praised his family for their incredible bravery over the last 72 hours.

Det Insp Barr said: “This is an absolutely horrific time for everyone who knew Simon, and my thoughts remain with his family as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened.

“I would continue to ask that their privacy is respected and would like to thank them for the way they have supported our investigation at every step of the process".

"We are committed to making sure Simon’s family get the answers they deserve. Any death is a tragedy, but it is especially poignant at this time of year.

He continued, "I would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information since the incident, and would ask the public to please avoid any speculation on social media or in the community that could jeopardise the ongoing court proceedings".

34-year-old Adam Jenkins has been charged with murder and will appear at Newcastle Crown Court tomorrow.