As Marie Heath got off her flight from England to Frankfurt am Main on Tuesday morning, she still believed her 31-year-old son Lee was only seriously bruised and battered.
But after rushing to the hospital, doctors told her the devastating news about the oldest of her three children, who was brutally assaulted in a popular Frankfurt nightclub early Monday morning.
“I was told he had a one percent chance of surviving,” Mary Heath told The Local from her sister’s home in England on Friday.
By Wednesday, Lee Heath had died, the victim of what police say was an inexplicable attack by several bouncers at the U60311 techno club. The beating left Heath with horrific head, neck and internal injuries.
Four employees from the club were arrested for their part in the incident – three are charged with manslaughter, another with failing to assist Heath as he lay on the ground, severely injured. On Friday, city authorities ordered U60311 temporarily closed, citing sanitation and hygiene violations.
Doris Möller-Scheu, spokeswoman for the Frankfurt state prosecutor's office, said on Friday three bouncers remained in custody while the criminal investigation continued.
“We’re speaking to witnesses right now,” she told The Local.
Marie Heath, 52, from Essex, England, said she now wants justice – the bouncers must face the law, the club needs to close permanently, and Frankfurt needs stricter regulation of security personnel. But she also wanted to thank many in Germany for standing by her family during the unimaginably difficult ordeal.
And more than anything, she wants people to know the kind of man she says her son was: A lover of football who moved to Germany to build a new life for himself and his long-time German girlfriend; an in-demand handyman who dreamed of starting his own business.
“Lee didn't deserve this but he fought to the end,” she said. “I have to be his voice. That’s why I’m so thankful to speak out.”
Heath grew up in East London and did some construction and handyman work at London’s Heathrow Airport before moving about 18 months ago to the Offenbach area, east of Frankfurt, with his girlfriend of about five years.
In Offenbach, Heath worked for delivery service UPS while he set about learning German and building up his nascent handyman business. He had a reputation as a devout fan of English football club Arsenal, but also as a hard worker with a penchant for getting things done.
A valued member of The Local's forum Toytown Germany, Heath was praised online by fellow expat Tricia Hunter as “the answer to a lot of prayers,” describing how Heath had perfectly renovated three rooms. Another forum member said: “He was lovely. Open, funny, friendly.”
Hunter told The Local by phone on Friday that in just three months Heath had become like a member of her family.
"He was a very open person. That's the one thing everyone noticed about him," Hunter said.
Some of Heath's work tools remain at Hunter's home. He was supposed to start more renovations soon.
Details of the dreadful incident on Monday remain hazy.
In a statement, the U60311 management apologized for making “mistakes” but said the beating stemmed from a dispute between two unnamed customers, one of whom allegedly attacked an employee with a bottle.
But Frankfurt police said though Heath at some point got in a dispute with club staff, there was no evidence he attacked anyone.
Marie Heath said police had told her that her son's assault occurred utterly unprovoked, as his girlfriend went to the restroom and he walked towards the bar.
On Friday, no one answered the phone at the club. Its Facebook page – where workers had been posting about new techno parties at U60311 even after Heath’s death – had been taken down.
As she visited his hospital bedside this week, Marie Heath thought not about the attack, but about whether she could help her son survive. She whispered quiet words at his hospital bedside as he lay in a coma and went through surgery after surgery.
After he passed away, she told him she loved him. And she told him goodbye.