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Dad's fight for justice after attack that left man in coma

By Brendan McDaid

The father of a man left in a vegetative state following a savage sectarian attack in Londonderry has welcomed further police efforts to catch those responsible.

Jim McCauley was speaking after meeting with police chiefs.

Speaking as the fourth anniversary of the attack on his son Paul looms, Mr McCauley and police repeated calls for community leaders within Derry’s Protestant community to urge those with information to come forward.

Paul McCauley (now 33) and two friends were enjoying a summer barbecue at his friend’s home in the Waterside area of the city on July 16 2006, when a gang carried out the unprovoked attack. Mr McCauley’s head was repeatedly stamped on as he lay wounded on the ground. He has never regained consciousness. His two friends, one of whom was disabled, were also severely beaten.

In March Paul’s family had asked for the police investigation to be re-examined amid frustration that only one man —Daryl Proctor — had been convicted in connection with the attack.

Proctor (19), from the Fountain estate, is serving 12 years in a young offenders centre for his role in the attack. He was sentenced in February 2009.

Mr McCauley said: “Basically, we felt that it is four years since the attack this week and there has only been one arrest, and that there should have been more.

“We met with the District Commander Stephen Martin and discussed the case with him on a Friday and the review was promised by the Monday. We are delighted at the progress now in the ongoing caset.”

Mr McCauley said that while he and his wife Cathy have seen no details of a confidential 75-page police report into the incident, he has received assurances that the probe will be stepped up with additional manpower.

The father-of-four added: “It is fair to say police have encountered a lack of co-operation from those on the periphery of the crime and who are aware of what happened on that night.”

Detective Sergeant Eddie Bell called for more information.

He said: “Parents should not have to go through what this couple have experienced in the last four years. People in this community know who else was involved. We believe it is a small group, no more than 10 people. Examine your consciences and do the right thing. This investigation remains open and we are actively pursuing any and all leads that will bring justice for Paul and for his family and friends.”

Police can be contacted on 084 5600 8000 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 08 0055 5111.

‘I still cry sometimes... little things set you off, you never give up hope’

Paul McCauley’s father Jim dropped his son off at his friend’s home on a summer’s evening in July 2006, little knowing that within hours his family would be forever changed by the scourge of sectarian hatred.

Paul was attending a farewell party of his friend on Chapel Road, when he and two friends, Gavin Mullin and Mark Lynch, were set upon by around 10 men as they stood around a bonfire in the early hours of July 16.

Father-of-one Paul, then 30, was kicked to the ground and his head was repeatedly stamped on. One of his friends, who is disabled, suffered a broken jaw while the other was treated in hospital for cuts and bruises.

The gang approached from a nearby loyalist estate and the totally unprovoked attack was later linked to the UDA by the Independent Monitoring Commission.

Now, four years on, Jim and his wife Cathy spend around five hours a day at the beside of their eldest child on a rota basis at a specialist brain injury unit attached to Altnagelvin Hospital.

“I still cry sometimes,” Mr McCauley said. “Little things can set you off. Increasingly you begin to accept the situation but you never give up hope. Paul’s condition remains unchanged. He is technically, medically what they call in a minimally responsive state.

“He is immobile with no communication.

“The lack of communications is a big frustration. We don’t know where he is chronologically. We don’t know if he knows we are his parents. It is been traumatic for everybody, Paul’s friends who were attacked and the wider family circle.”

In his hospital room surrounded by family photographs, his family keep Paul company in the hope that one day their prayers will be answered and they will get some sign from their son.

It has been a horrific ordeal for the couple and their other three children. Before Paul was transferred to Altnagelvin two years ago, for seven months his family had to travel to Belfast every day as he was being cared for in the brain injury unit at Musgrave.

A former student of St Columb’s College in Derry, Paul worked as a civil servant and was studying for an Open University degree in computers.

Speaking about the time since the attack, Jim says: “It has been a long four years and in other respects it is hard to believe it has been four years since that night I left Paul at the barbecue. He walked up the lane to his friend’s house and it seems just like yesterday. We just said cheerio. That’s the last memory of the old Paul.”

Mr McCauley said his family were now holding on to the hope that those who wreaked havoc on his son’s life are put behind bars.

“It won’t help Paul but it will help carry us if those who carried it out are brought to justice,” he said.

He also said he and his family had watched with “great concern and disappointment” a series of recent cases where people who stamped on their victims’ heads during attacks were awarded short jail terms or even suspended sentences.

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