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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 14:31 GMT
Anger of park attack survivor
By Clare Purdy
BBC News, Manchester

Robert Maltby has no memory of the night he and girlfriend Sophie Lancaster were left for dead but said it left him "angrier than I ever thought possible".

Robert Maltby
Robert Maltby was attacked first by the teenagers
Mr Maltby, 21, and 20-year-old Miss Lancaster were living together and planning a future when they were set upon by teenagers in Stubbylee Park, Bacup.

They met through friends when Miss Lancaster was studying at Haslingden High School sixth form.

"Sophie was very very warm, she just wanted to make friends with everyone," Mr Maltby said.

"It might have something to do with why we started to go out and sadly might have something to do with what happened the night we were attacked."

As the couple walked through the park, they chatted to some of the teenagers gathered there in what Preston Crown Court heard was initially a "good-natured" conversation.

"We didn't judge anyone on face value, we didn't think ill of anyone unless they gave us reason to - that is why we were there that night.

"We thought everyone there would be like that, but unfortunately, they weren't."

Mr Maltby was kicked and beaten and was lying bleeding when the attackers turned on Miss Lancaster.

Sophie Lancaster
She was my entire world, I'm not ashamed to say it
Robert Maltby

"In my mind I really wished she legged it and got out of there, I wish she'd left me to die," he said.

"She could not accept anything bad happening to anyone she cared about.

"My personal feeling was what they were trying to do was humiliate us.

"It seems to display this arrogance, which is something I'm not familiar with.

"If they had hit me a couple of times I could have accepted it.

"I could have even accepted if what had happened was worse, if I might not have survived, but Sophie was never touched.

"But you don't do that to a young girl, you don't do that to anyone.

Long-term plans

"I could be honest and say they've ruined my life, but I wouldn't want to given them the satisfaction."

The couple had suffered abuse on a handful of occasions before, but Mr Maltby said it never crossed their minds that they could be targeted because of how they dressed.

"We didn't really think about it, if we did, we'd have never gone out," he said.

He said he and Miss Lancaster, a gap-year student had "definite long-term plans".

Robert Maltby in hospital
Robert Maltby was seriously injured in the attack

He said: "I wake up in the morning and look to my side and I'm on my own. It feels like someone has come along and nicked my life.

"At first I managed to deal with it much better, because it hadn't come together in my mind. After the funeral I thought it would be closure, but it has been even worse."

Mr Maltby and Miss Lancaster were both in comas following the attack, but Miss Lancaster failed to regain consciousness.

Mr Maltby said when he saw her he "completely broke down".

"I wanted to give her something so she knew I was there," he said.

Kiss goodbye

"All I had was a cheap watch my granddad gave me. If I could I would have ripped my heart out and given that to her and with any luck, brought her back.

"She was my entire world, I'm not ashamed to say it. You put so much effort into it and some child comes along and decides to ruin it for you, it's not fair."

Miss Lancaster had a humanist funeral in which mourners wrote messages on her coffin.

Mr Maltby penned a note, before kissing the coffin.

"Because my memory is shot of that day, I don't know when I kissed her goodbye - it really was my last opportunity."



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Robert Maltby on his girlfriend's death



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