Manchester attack on Portadown College students 'brutal and unprovoked', says police officer
The attack on 14 Portadown College students on a school trip to Manchester has been described by the senior investigating officer as "brutal" and "unprovoked".
None of the teenage boys who were set upon by a gang of youths as they left the Trafford Centre on Sunday evening was seriously injured.
But the teenagers were "completely outnumbered" by a gang of around 40 youths who targeted them.
Five of the boys were later treated in hospital for their injuries, but were discharged shortly afterwards in the early hours of Monday morning.
However, the Belfast Telegraph has learned that one teenager was advised to get his arm checked out at home in case he had sustained a hairline fracture.
Portadown College pupil Craig Chambers witnessed the assault and said that while one student had broken his elbow, the others were treated for concussion.
"We were just walking out of the Trafford Centre to go to the bus and a group of people from Manchester, who were all about the same age as us, came behind us and just started a fight, basically," he told the BBC.
"We were completely outnumbered and they just started a brawl."
The entire 44-strong party - which included five teachers - returned to the Co Armagh school on Monday night.
Last night Inspector Fahar Zaman from Greater Manchester's Trafford Division said that his force was treating as "very serious" the attack on the pupils, who were in the city to enjoy the derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.
He said: "This was an unprovoked attack on some young people who were visiting our city. It is disappointing that the memories they are left with will be of this brutal attack.
"We are working with the Trafford Centre to gather evidence and we are following some positive lines of inquiry to find those responsible.
"We are treating this incident very seriously and are appealing for anyone who was in the area or may have seen anything to get in touch."
One of the school's vice principals, Gillian Gibb, praised her staff for the way they looked after the students, but did not rule out a possible return trip to Manchester next year.
Upper Bann MP David Simpson added his "deep concern" about the attack, saying that the trip "should have been a fun-filled and relaxing mid-term break for the pupils".