Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

I thought I was going to die, says autistic assault victim

A vulnerable Fermanagh man was left battered and bruised in a pool of his own blood following a brutal attack by thugs.

Michael Leonard (21), who suffers from autism, was viciously assaulted by two men in Trasna Way in Lisnaskea in full view of young children at the weekend.

Hours later his uncle and neighbour Damien Wiggins, who also has autism, was beaten with a stick and robbed.

Michael Leonard was left with 39 injuries including a broken nose, cuts and bruises to his back and head, two black and bloody eyes and four bruised ribs.

Mr Leonard said he thought he was “going to die” as he waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Struggling with pain, he said: “There was that much blood on the ground that I thought that was it. I was sure I was going to die.

“There was nothing I could do, I couldn’t move. I just hoped and prayed the ambulance would come and I’d be seen to.”

On the assault itself, Mr Leonard told how he had left a friend’s house when a man, whom he knew, called him over to speak to him.

“He put his hand out and then hit me a headbutt. I fell to the ground. He broke my nose and started booting my head in,” he said.

“Then another boy came out of a house and started beating me too. I was lying there in a pool of blood and they kept kicking me.

“There was a get-together taking place in one of the houses nearby so there were loads of kids about. Some were of about three years of age and they were watching it all. They watched me being attacked, they were hiding behind the older ones, crying their eyes out.

“I’ve heard the children can’t even sleep at night now because of it. They haven’t settled since, they’re having nightmares, like me.”

Mr Leonard described his attackers as “animals” and said he “feels sick” at the thought of them. “I am worried that this will happen again,” he said.

“I worry about my safety. I have only left the house a couple of times since. If I go out I have to look over my shoulder, I’m scared they’ll come after me again.”

And his uncle, 32-year-old Mr Wiggins, recalled how he was “shaking with fear” when the intruder entered his house late on Saturday night.

“I was lying in bed when I heard the sound of someone breaking in through the kitchen window. I was frightened, very frightened,” he said.

“I could hear footsteps so I walked down to the kitchen and there he was — a man hiding behind the kitchen door.

“He was tall, hiding his face, with a two foot stick in his hand. I ran through the house and he ran behind me and into the living room.”

Mr Wiggins said he shouted for the man to stop but he didn’t listen.

“He hit me on the head and the chest with the stick. He ran into the bedroom and grabbed my jeans, which had my money in them. There was £120 in the jeans. He took the only bit of money I had left,” he said.

Mr Wiggins has been the victim of a number of heartless attacks in the past. He now suffers from horrendous panic attacks, along with his disability.

PSNI Inspector Roy Robinson has branded the attacks “despicable and disgraceful”.

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