Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland football fan 'could've been killed' after vicious attack

Attacker: Luke Hammond
Attacker: Luke Hammond

By Lynda Roughley

A Belfast man who travelled to Liverpool to watch a football match suffered a potentially life-threatening head injury following a "horrendous" unprovoked attack in a takeaway restaurant.

Ryan Cassidy has been unable to return to his job with the Royal Mail since the vicious assault and his outlook on life has totally changed.

In a victim impact statement he told how the single blow, which left him unconscious for at least four minutes, could have killed him.

His attacker, Luke Hammond, has two previous convictions for violence and was yesterday put behind bars for 12 months.

"It was a forceful punch which was unprovoked and caused potentially catastrophic injuries," said Judge David Aubrey QC.

He told the 29-year-old that he took into account he has worked for a number of years for Jaguar Land Rover and has a partner and three-year-old daughter, but there had to be an immediate jail sentence.

Philip Hall, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that Mr Cassidy, then 34, travelled to Liverpool on November 30 with three friends for the Liverpool-Everton match.

They went out for the night but he later became separated from them but met two women, Lauren McCafferty and Rachel Kehoe, in a nightclub.

"Both described him as a nice, friendly person and Miss Kehoe described him as a gentleman," said Mr Hall.

"The club closed and they moved on sometime after 4am to the Hotspot takeaway in Temple Court. He stood with the two women in the takeaway and even offered to buy their food."

Hammond walked in shortly afterwards and Miss Kehoe believed he had something to sell and he smelt of cannabis. Mr Cassidy told him: "These girls don't want anything, they are not like that they are nice girls."

CCTV footage played to the court showed the two men shaking hands but then, while Mr Cassidy had his hands in his pockets, Hammond suddenly punched him in the face, knocking him out.

Hammond swiftly left the premises leaving his victim unconscious on the floor with the colour draining from his face and his eyes rolling.

He was admitted to Aintree Hospital in a semi-conscious condition and it was found he had extensive skull fractures at the back and top of his head and bleeding and bruising on the brain. He also had a fractured eye socket.

Hammond, of Alderman Road, Speke, pleaded guilty to unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on December 1. He was arrested after being pointed out to police by a member of the public and was found to have a cannabis cigarette on him.

In his impact statement Mr Cassidy said he has no recollection of the assault and his worried family had to fly over to be at his bedside. After finally returning home he has had to attend hospital appointments and found he was sleeping up to 18 hours a day.

He was anxious and kept thinking how he could have died that night. He tried returning to work but could not do so as he has not recovered and suffers from tiredness.

"I no longer leave the house and don't want to socialise," he stated. Mr Cassidy added that his memory was badly affected, he has mood swings and was irritable.

Matthew O'Neill, defending, said Hammond "is extremely remorseful ... he accepts full responsibility".

"He can only put it down to a combination of alcohol and an incident seven years ago when he had his ear bitten off in a street attack in Birmingham. He can only say he acted out of paranoia but having viewed the CCTV footage it is clear there was no provocation whatsoever."

Mr O'Neill added that Hammond has had difficulty with alcohol and drugs since he was 18 after his father died.

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