[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Beaten and left for dead
By Dan Collyns
BBC News Online

As two sets of annual crime figures are released, one victim of a devastating, unprovoked assault talks about how he is trying to piece his life back together.

Michael Naith's life changed forever on 13 October 2001 and he says it could have happened to anyone.

Michael Naith
'I never balked from anything'
In a strange way the 48-year-old is glad it was him and not an older or frailer person because he believes they would have died such was the severity of his attack.

Michael stands awkwardly with a cane and shakes my hand, sitting down heavily in a chair in the front garden of his home in Brixton, south London, surrounded by 6ft of wooden fencing.

"I was on my way home from work and I stopped off to meet a friend of my wife's in a strange pub", he begins, almost wearily, recounting the familiar tale.

"I had one pint, delivered the message I had to deliver and called a cab.

"As I walked out to see if my cab had arrived I was confronted by a gang of around 20 to 30 black youths.

I screamed out loud as I felt my leg break. The pain was unbelievable

"They started shouting abuse basically saying 'Do you want some'?"

"I said 'I don't want no trouble, I'm just waiting for a cab', but the next thing I knew I was surrounded, I couldn't get back into the pub.

Michael has a heavy-set frame - he used to play in the hooker position in the front row of a rugby scrum - but this time he was hopelessly outnumbered.

"One of them starts running at me with a wooden stake. I dodged that but then they all charged towards me like a pack of hounds.

"I was smashed over the head with a lump of wood and I fell to the ground as they were raining kicks into me and hitting me with this piece of wood.

"I heard someone say: 'Hold his legs'. They pulled my legs out, all the time blows fell on my body.

"The one with the wooden stake hit me there", he said pointing to a point just below his knee.

By the time they got me to hospital I was losing so much blood they had to glue my head together
" I screamed out loud as I felt my leg break. The pain was unbelievable."

But that was not enough for his stick-wielding attacker, as he smashed the leg again, this time further down the shin, breaking it in a second place.

"I screamed again, I couldn't take any more", he said.

The wooden stake was brought down on his leg a third time, fracturing the ankle.

"The third time he hit me I screamed and passed out."

Eyewitnesses peering through their windows on the quiet street in Norwood, south London, say the gang continued to kick and beat Michael "like a bag of rags" even after the screams had stopped.

Horrific beating

"By the time they got me to hospital I was losing so much blood they had to glue my head together", he said stoically.

Michael was conscious as he went into emergency surgery.

"My head was so swollen they couldn't use a general anaesthetic so I had an epidural and was operated on while conscious but numb.

"I looked on as they pieced the bits of bone in my leg together.

Michael was a keen amateur boxer. He spent 12 years boxing as a middleweight on the amateur circuit.

He also played hooker in a rugby team and was a keen swimmer.

His surgeon told him a less robust man would probably have died of shock after such a horrific beating.

"I suppose I was just another victim of their mob mentality", Michael says philosophically.

"In a way I was glad it was me, a older man would have died and it really could have been anyone."

Despite extensive police investigations none of the perpetrators have ever been caught.

I used to walk tall with a straight back and my head held high... nowadays I get panic attacks in crowds
Since the attack he has undergone 11 operations and contracted the notorious hospital superbug, MRSA.

He has been unable to work and is still waiting for money from the Criminal Compensation Board.

He says that without the Victim Support organisation his life would be unbearable.

"From the first day they have been there for me holding my hand - 120% superb.

"I can't give anything back but my time, so whatever they ask me to do I'll do it."

One of his first public engagements on behalf of the group was as guest of honour at a Buckingham Palace dinner hosted by Princess Anne.

Unable to return to his job as a manager in a private mailing firm where he took home a 28,000 salary he now tries to survive on 7,000 a year in benefits.

This is doubly hard as he has five children ranging in age between 16 and 28 years old, and has just become a grandfather.

"When I wake up in the morning I feel like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz", he jokes.

Michael Naith
Michael's house is surrounded by wooden fencing
"I need an oil change before I can get up.

"The hardest thing is trying to survive, we had a great life - three holidays a year, West End shows, leisure clubs. Now I don't even go out for a pint.

The physical scars have yet to heal and the mental toll has left him equally incapacitated.

He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He also suffers from tinnitus, which can lead to black-outs and headaches.

"I used to walk tall with a straight back and my head held high, I was earning a good living and I was independent", he recalled.

"That freedom's gone now. Outside the house I feel wary, vulnerable and anxious.

"Nowadays I get panic attacks in crowds. It's not like me, I have never balked from anything."

Michael, who is now disabled, says he finds it impossible to even do a desk job.

"My concentration will not even see me finish a crossword without getting a mind-blowing headache."

But it is not all over for Michael - surgeons have told him they may have to amputate his leg below the knee in his 12th operation.

"The body can only take so much", he said.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific