Four men face jail after being found guilty of beating a former Sutton United footballer until he was close to death.

After four years of hell the Hughes family this week returned to England with the justice they sought since the day Robbie Hughes was beaten to within an inch of his life while on holiday.

Mr Hughes, now 31, was in a coma for two weeks after being attacked by four men who left him for dead outside the Candy Club in Malia, Greece, on June 17, 2008.

Last week the Hughes family, who have tirelessly campaigned for justice, were in court in Heraklion, Crete, to see their loved one’s assailants punished.

On Thursday, four of the six men accused – Curtis Taylor, Sean Branton, Daniel Bell and Joseph Bruckland, all from Horley, Surrey – were convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and were sentenced to four years in prison, suspended pending an appeal.

Mother Maggie Hughes, who has successfully campaigned to get European laws changed, allowing families to get better access to legal experts while abroad, is angry her son’s attackers were allowed home during the appeal process.

Speaking after the trial, she said: “I'm not happy they were allowed out of the country. They have now launched an appeal, which can go on for another year. We thought it was all over now, but it isn’t, we will have to do it all again.”

A visibly troubled Mr Hughes, speaking outside the court, told of his difficulties following the attack.

He said: “I’ve been here for three days? I can’t remember. I can’t remember ever playing for Oxford United, obviously I’m honoured I have, but I can’t remember yesterday very well. It is very strange.

“I don’t feel any anger towards these men, I don’t feel anything towards them at all. I hope they go on now and lead the right kind of lives.”

Mr Hughes, from south Croydon, found it difficult to relive his ordeal in court, breaking down while giving evidence.

Mrs Hughes, from Wallington, said: “We lost the Robbie we knew that night, but this is the best result we could have hoped for. Something good has come out of something so bad.

“All we ever wanted was justice for Robbie and we have it. I don’t need to see these men behind bars for 50 years, that is not want we wanted. I don’t need to think for the rest of my life, when they were coming out. We are all so pleased we got the guilty verdicts.

“We have finally got justice, but Robbie has got the life sentence, not them.”

Two other men, Benjamin Herdman, from Worth, West Sussex, and George Hollands, from Reigate, were found not guilty by the Greek court.

Following the trial, the men who stamped on the ex-Sutton United and Croydon Athletic player’s head and stabbed him with a bottle, causing him to have four operations on his brain, were free to return to England.

The four convicted men launched separate appeals after the trial against their convictions and the sentence.

Mr Hughes’s lawyers Irwin Mitchell said it was unclear if the appeals failed whether they would be jailed in Greece or the UK.

What happened and when

• June 17, 2008 – Robbie Hughes attacked while on holiday with friends in Malia

• October 2008 – Maggie Hughes speaks to David Cameron about her son’s attack, he vows to look into it

• November 2009 – Robbie Hughes receives sporting champion of the year award at the Croydon Guardian’s Croydon Champions awards after returning to semi-professional football

• December 2009 – European arrest warrants issued by the Met Police for six men who appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court

• June 2010 – Robbie Hughes flies to Greece to thank doctors who saved his life

• July 2010 – Accused lose appeal against extradition to Crete to face trial

• August 2010 – Men flown to Crete to face charges and are then bailed to return to England

• September 2010 – One of Mr Hughes’ attackers, Joseph Bruckland, found guilty of fracturing a teenager’s jaw in England

• May 2011 – Maggie Hughes appeared with European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding in Brussels to get draft law to help victims of crime abroad

• March 2012 – November date set for trial of six men accused of attack

• June 2012 – Despite being told he would never play football again, Mr Hughes just misses out on making London 2012 Paralympic team

• September 2012 – European Parliament approve Mrs Hughes’s bill in Strasbourg, which will see the victims of crime abroad get more help with language and local law

• November 2012 – Four men found guilty of GBH in Heraklion, Greece