THE daughter of a heroic man who died after protecting her from thugs has told of her two years of hell.

Natalie Cadman’s father Frank Milligan had a heart attack after stepping in to defend her as she was being assaulted in Burgess Hill in 2016.

Five men they did not know attacked Natalie and her brother-in-law, Darren Wynne, as they worked to put the finishing touches to a new family cafe.

The attack happened in Church Road on the night of May 13.

Three of the men, John Venn, Hayden Garrett and Joshua Hewes, were charged with manslaughter and affray.

Frank suffered a brain bleed shortly after trying to break up the brawl and later died in hospital.

However, the manslaughter charge was dropped on January 9 after a medical report was ordered, and they have all since pleaded guilty to affray.

Now Natalie, aged 37, of Burgess Hill, has spoken of the gut-wrenching trauma the three young men have caused her and her family through “a selfish and stupid act”.

She told The Argus: “My father’s death has been for nothing.

“The impact this has had on my family has left us scarred.

“They have shown no remorse or regret for their actions.

“My dad would still be here if it wasn’t for them.”

Natalie said her family’s world has been blown apart since Frank died in hospital aged 64.

Grandfather Frank was revered by the Burgess Hill community and his loved ones.

He leaves behind Natalie, eldest daughter Heidi, 41, his 35-year-old son Scott, and his wife Susan, who was his childhood sweetheart.

Natalie’s two young children have been bereft by the loss of their grandfather, she said.

Frank and Susan, now 62, were beginning to plan their retirement when the attack dashed their dreams.

Natalie said: “My dad met mum when she was 15 – he was her first love.

“As part of their retirement, they bought a campervan to use together.

“But my mum had to get rid of it because it’s a constant reminder.

“I cannot explain how devastating it has been.”

Natalie, a mental health nurse, had to take time off work after losing her father.

She said: “I had to recover and try and make sense of what happened.

“You get no alleviation from any of your symptoms at all.

“As a nurse, you want to do anything you can to help people. But when they do things like that, your faith in humanity gets challenged.”

Relaying the anguish of that fateful night, Natalie remains mortified by the despicable actions of the young men.

“My memory of it is as clear as if it was yesterday,” she said.

“I pleaded with them to go away and leave it.

“I have never experienced such violence in all my life.

“To be exposed to that kind of trauma has been awful.”

Venn, of the Highlands in Cuckfield, is 20, while Garrett, of Allen Road in Haywards Heath, and Hewes, of Silver Birches, Haywards Heath, are both 21.

They have been released on bail until sentencing on March 14.

The trio’s actions on that May night were everything Frank, a well-principled man, stood against.

Natalie said: “He was a reliable, honest person who wanted people to feel safe and to do the right thing.

“They went against every principle he had.”

Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Carr, of Sussex Police, gave her sympathies to Frank’s family.

She said: “The Crown Prosecution Service charged the three men with manslaughter. A joint medical report was ordered by the trial judge and following receipt of this, the CPS requested this charge was discontinued, which was accepted by the court.

“We appreciate how frustrating this must be for the Milligan family and our sympathies are with them.”