A bride from Leeds has been left heartbroken after her new husband died suddenly during their honeymoon in Cape Verde.
Newlyweds Aimee, 33, and Alan Simms, 31, of Morley, had only been married for eight days when he fell ill during their “dream holiday” and died on the fourth day.
Having been struck down with what they initially thought was food poisoning, Alan’s condition quickly deteriorated and he died in a clinic on the island on May 27.
An autopsy in Cape Verde revealed he had died from lung cancer - despite having no signs or symptoms of the disease.
Now back home, Aimee told the Yorkshire Evening Post she is still in shock and disbelief over what has happened and the loss of her “best friend”.
“I just can’t understand it. In the space of 12 hours he had gone from being fine and dandy to having died.
“He didn’t have any signs [of lung cancer]. He didn’t have any coughing or breathing problems. Nothing at all.
“It was horrible. I’d been married eight days. That’s what I remember saying to everyone. How can this be happening?”
It had been virtually love at first sight for the couple when they met at JD’s nightclub in Morley in 2011, with Alan immediately telling his mum, Josie, he had met someone and Aimee texting him the very next day.
She said: “I just knew straight away. He was like a big teddy bear. He was just a big softy.”
Within six months, Aimee was spending most of her time at the home Alan shared with his mum in Churwell.
She eventually bought a house nearby in 2014 and Alan proposed, on holiday in Lanzarote, before he had even moved in with her.
Aimee said: “We were just going out for tea one night and he said, ‘Do you love me?’ and I said yes and then he said, ‘Will you marry me?’. It didn’t click he was being serious at first. But then he got down on one knee and got the ring out. I just couldn’t believe it. I said yes straight away.”
After first buying their beloved dog Ernie, a Hungarian wirehaired Vizsla, the couple then set to task organising the wedding.
With Alan wanting a “big party” and Aimee happy with a low-key celebration, the pair settled on booking Thornfield House in Morley for the big day, which took place on May 19.
Emotions were running high on the day itself, with Alan tearing up as his bride walked down the aisle – at which point Aimee said she just ran to him.
“I don’t remember leaving my dad. I just remember Alan was crying and I wanted to get to him and give him a hug.”
Alan’s mum Josie said: “Once Alan started tearing up, everyone was in tears. And then Aimee runs down the aisle and we’re all laughing. It was just a fantastic day.
“You could just see they’re so in love. She once told me they were so comfortable with each other they were one - not two people.”
The honeymoon destination of Cape Verde was Alan’s choice and they jetted off four days later, on May 23.
After spending the first two days relaxing and exploring the island, the third day started with a lazy morning before Aimee went to the pool and Alan rang his mum to tell her about the “fantastic” time he was having.
But just a few hours later, he told Aimee he felt so tired he needed to sleep before dinner.
At dinner, Aimee said he was very quiet - unlike his usual self - and just wanted to go straight to sleep afterwards.
But at midnight, he woke up being violently sick and with stomach pains, leading Aimee to call an emergency nurse at 4am.
The nurse thought it was food poisoning and gave him anti-sickness drugs and pain relief before telling him to go to the clinic at 8am for further tests.
Alan was very weak by the time he got to the clinic and doctors battled to monitor his vital signs.
“I was just stood next to him, talking to him. He was really quiet. I was trying to reassure him, saying, ‘It’s OK, you’ve got a bad belly’. I was just rubbing his forehead, there was nothing else I could do.”
As Alan continued to quickly deteriorate, doctors moved Aimee further away before suddenly asking her to leave the room as they began CPR.
“I just didn’t know what was going on. I rang my mum crying. I said Alan’s come in with a bad belly and now I think he’s dying. She couldn’t get her head around it.
“I just sat on a step outside and it was probably about an hour before someone came back to me. I said ‘is he OK, is he stable?’ And they asked me to go in a room. That’s when I knew he was dead. They said they had done everything they could.
“I just didn’t understand why we had gone in with diarrhoea and sickness and he’s died. I was just shaking.”
Reps from their travel firm TUI helped support Aimee and sort paperwork over the next couple of days before she could fly home. Alan followed two days later.
“Leaving him behind got to me. At take off, I was just crying my eyes out. It was horrible. We had gone on our honeymoon and I was coming home by myself.”
Aimee said she is struggling to come to terms with the loss of their planned future together.
“Both short and long-term plans. We were going to sort the garden out, we wanted kids, we had a holiday booked for September. It’s the looking forward. What do I do now? We planned stuff together. He was my best mate. We did everything together.
“I just feel numb. I think I’ve cried so much, I’m running out of tears.”
She says she takes some comfort from the fact that Alan didn’t know what was happening or that he had cancer.
Despite living with a benign tumour in his brain - diagnosed when he was 19 - Alan had been fit and healthy, and worked as a gardener in the area.
But the autopsy revealed cancerous cells had also been found in his liver.
Alan’s mum Josie said: “It seems it was something that was going to happen and was going to happen quickly. It’s some peace of mind that he didn’t know about it. He could have come home and within a couple of weeks been riddled with cancer.
“He had done everything he had wanted to do - he had fallen in love, he’d got a dog, he’d got married. Cape Verde had been his choice - his dream holiday.”
Hundreds packed into Cottingley Crematorium - with more having to stand outside - to pay their respects to ‘Big Al’ last Friday before the wake at Churwell WMC, where Alan had been a regular over the years.
The club is having a ‘Darts and Dominoes’ charity night in his memory on July 27, with all welcome.
Aimee said that all his friends are still reeling over the shock of his death.
“He was just so happy and friendly. He would do anything for anyone. You couldn’t miss him - with his height and his booming voice. He will leave a big hole.”