Thursday, 21 December 2017

ONE of two young men who sustained serious injuries in what has been described as a "frenzied attack" by a group of men in Strabane says he will never socialise in the town again.

The 19-year-old and his friend, also aged 19, who are from Gortin and Plumbridge, had been enjoying their first ever night out in the town on Saturday night when they were set upon by the assailants in the early hours.

The teenager, who was left unconcious in a pool of his own blood, sustained severe facial injuries including a badly damaged lip.

 His friend sustained a broken jaw in two places and had to undergo reconstructive surgery.

In a statement on the matter the PSNI said they received a report of an assault on two men by a group of up to three males in the Derry Road area of Strabane in the early hours of Sunday.

They added both men received facial injuries as a result of this attack. At time of going to press yesterday, (Tuesday), they also confirmed that no one had been arrested in relation to the assaults.

However, according to the injured parties, Dean Crawford from Gortin and Conall Harley from Plumbridge, there was anything up to nine men involved in the attack, some of the older perpetrators wearing knuckledusters.


Recalling the incidents, Mr Crawford said it was like a scene from the 'Wild West' with numerous fights taking place and the police trying to calm the situation.

He recounted how he and his friends decided to socialise in Strabane that night when an incident broke out in a local premises. A gang of boys were put out, but when he and his friends left the same premises, they were approached by this gang who started a fight.

"If you looked at someone the wrong way you were taken out. I even saw a policewoman getting hit. There were people being thrown over bonnets of cars. There seemed to be a number of different fights going on at the one time. It was like a bloodbath in the Wild West. I doubt there was more than drink involved in this, those guys were on drugs, they were off their heads," he claimed.

"People tried to get away and make it back to their cars but nine of them followed us and began hitting us. We were attacked on three separate occasions, the last time out the Derry Road. We did our best to defend ourselves, but the gang called in reinforcements, older men, and one of them appeared to be wearing a knuckleduster. I remember getting hit on the head and falling unconscious for a while."


He said they didn't realise it at the time, but both had received head injuries.

"I was put to the ground and hit and kicked by all of them. They broke Conall's jaw in two places. It was very scary and we feared for our lives when the older men got involved. I thought this is it."

He explained that when the police came they told them it could take up to two hours to take them to hospital and said they had the option of driving themselves to the hospital in Omagh.

"We did this but as I had drink taken, Conall was driving. He didn't drink that night. He had to stop a few times on the way up because of the pain he had.

He didn't know his jaw was broke in two places. When we got to the hospital and after an examination, they told us we needed to go to Altnagelvin hospital in Derry. Injuries had shown up in the scans. When Conall said he would drive to Derry the nurse said no way. She couldn't believe he had already driven with his injuries that night adding it was dangerous."

In relation to ever returning to Strabane for a night out, Mr Crawford said: "This was my first ever time out in Strabane, it wasn't a great advertisement for the place.

 "It's a shame, I have friends from Strabane but after the attack I will never be out in Strabane. I don't even want to step foot into the place.

"The only place I feel safe in is my home and Plumbridge where my friends and family are," he said.

Both men are recovering this week, but still traumatised by their experience.


Mr Crawford's mother, Margarette Crawford, said the family had to endure a nightmare following last Sunday morning's incident. She said her son and his friend were victims of what could only be described as people who were a bad advertisement for Strabane.

She said Dean had been working well over in England for seven months earlier this year and had only returned home to start work locally with an agricultural contractor before this incident happened.


"They are in pretty bad shape," she said.


She added she was shocked and horrified at what had happened.





The incident has drawn widespread political condemnation and has led to renewed calls for the installation of CCTV cameras in the town.

Sinn Fein MLA., Michaela Boyle, said she was "appalled" by the attack and urged witnesses to come forward.

 SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan, urged the PSNI to bring the attackers to justice and ensure there is 'zero tolerance' for violence in the town.

 Meanwhile police in Strabane say they are continuing to investigate the assault and have issued an appeal for witnesses to come foward.

 "Anyone with information is asked to contact 101 quoting reference 269 of 16/12/17," said a PSNI spokesperson.

 "Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100 per cent anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."

 In what is traditionally one of the busiest weekends of the year, it's understood that police were called to a number of other incidents of assault in the town.


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