Tragic death of gentle giant Leeds coach John Harkins had 'ripples across the world'

John Harkins
John Harkins
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The bike which John Harkins was riding at the time of the fatal collision had been bought through funds raised for him by friends and loved ones.

Hundreds of people trained by the popular cheerleading coach lit candles and released balloons in a emotional vigil held after his death.
Family, friends and colleagues paid further tribute to Mr Harkins - known as Tats - in statements which were read out in court as Munir was sentenced.

A vigil was held for John Harkins after his tragic death

A vigil was held for John Harkins after his tragic death

Mr Harkins' close friend Rachel Pearson said: "John was the hardest working person I knew, who was fiercely loyal, endlessly selfless and happy with his lot in life.

"In 2015 he had some very bad luck where he had his bike stolen not once, but twice.

"After picking himself up the first time and arranging for a new bike for himself, it happened again.

"I coordinated a gofundme page to try to raise enough money to get him a new bike to give back to someone so deserving.

"We raised over £700 of a £900 target in under two hours - in the end we managed to raise £1,460.

"That is how much he meant to everyone who knew him.

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"John's tragic death has had ripples across the world, with lots of memorials being held and awards being presented both to him posthumously and in his name.

"Everyone is keen to ensure that his legacy lives on."

Friend and business partner Martin Wan said: "Tats was such a dedicated coach. He deserved many years of success, of seeing his kids grow into amazing athletes, of watching his teams perform well at competitions and seeing the fruits of his labours and hard work.

"But all that was taken away from him too soon, and in such a reckless and pointless manner.

"We have accepted awards in his name that he should have had the opportunity to collect himself.

"We recently competed at the Cheer World Championships. We had to do it without him behind us, without his support, his coaching and amazing encouragement.

"For many it was heart wrenching and difficult when it should have been the best time of their lives."

Mr Harkins' mum Karen said: "I look at my husband and daughter every day and see stress, tiredness and upset.

"They have lost that twinkle in their eyes which was part of their magic.

"I was a very strong person but I sometimes think that person doesn't exist anymore.

"I only want one more hug and kiss and 'I love you' from my gentle giant."

Sister Jodie said: "I should never have to accept awards for a man who should have collected his own.

"I shouldn't have to scatter by baby brother's ashes.

"I shouldn't have to explain to a three-year-old where uncle John is and why she can't talk to him.

"That's not fair. I'm broken, I'm lost, I'm tired, I'm angry and most of all I miss the man I used to call my baby brother.

"All I want is to hold him one more time, but that has been taken from me."