TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Keighley Cougar Cubs player who died from injuries sustained outside a nightclub.

James Etherington died in hospital ten days after being injured outside Bijou Cocktail Bar and Nightclub, in Chapel Lane, Bingley.

Police have launched a murder inquiry.

Mr Etherington, 24, who lived in Bingley, played for the Cougar Cubs – one of the country's biggest junior rugby league clubs – in his youth.

His uncle, David Etherington, has spoken of the family’s devastation.

He said: “He was an absolute lad’s lad. He cared about his family, his friends, his community and would do anything for anyone.

“He was a sporty guy and outside of sport he was a proper Bingley lad, there wasn’t a pub or a café or a shop in the town he could go in without seeing someone he knew.

“Everyone in the family is devastated, we are still in shock.

“We cannot thank Leeds General Infirmary enough for what they did, the staff were all amazing.”

Scott Rankin, one of Mr Etherington’s closest friends, attended the nightclub to pay his respects along with many of his friends.

He said: “James was a fun loving guy, he could put a smile on anyone’s face.

“I knew him for more than ten years, and he was the heart of the group.”

He described what had happened as “gutting and heartbreaking.”

Mr Etherington, who attended Bingley Grammar School, worked for Yorkshire Water jetting sewers.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Water said: “We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends during this difficult time.”

Following the incident on November 25, four men were arrested, with a 31 and 30-year-old being released under investigation, a 23-year-old being bailed, and a 28-year-old being released without charge.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Scott, of Protective Services (Crime), said: “I would appeal to anyone with information about the incident and who hasn’t yet come forward to do so.

“We are particularly keen to speak to anyone who took footage on their mobile phones.”

Scores of people visited the nightclub during the day following news of the death to leave flowers and other tributes to Mr Etherington by its entrance. One message read: “James Etherington, a smile that lit up Bingley”, while another said: “Such a kind, caring, smiley, fun-loving, genuine person, you will forever be missed”.

On Facebook, Mr Etherington’s brother Joe wrote: “He put up one hell of a fight but it was never to be, his injuries were too severe.

“You were loved by countless people and will never ever be forgotten, especially by me, Mum and Dad.

“It was honestly the best 21 years I spent with you and will never ever forget the memories I was lucky enough to have with you.

“You were nothing short of a miracle, a hero and the best role model a younger brother and best ever friend could ever ever ask for.

“You were too good for this world and hopefully will join you on the other side where we will meet again once more.

“Goodnight James my absolute world and will never ever forget you, Love you more than you will ever believe.”

Meanwhile, Bingley Town Council also paid tribute to Mr Etherington.

The council’s message on Facebook read: “We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of James Etherington who sadly passed away this afternoon.”

The town council had been due to hold a meeting, but cancelled it out of respect for Mr Etherington’s family.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting crime reference number 13170551254 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.