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Night out in central Christchurch ends with brain injury

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By Tina Grumball of Otago Daily Times

A St John New Zealand ambulance

Tony Rider was taken to hospital by ambulance following the assault. File image.

Tony and Julia Rider were in central Christchurch for a night out, but moments after deciding to go home Tony was dragged away by a stranger and assaulted.

His wife Julia said the attack was a “blur”.

“I saw three hits to the head and face area, but (after) the initial hit, Tony fell to the ground and … I could tell something was really not right because of the way it changed his voice,” Julia told The Star.

The assault – during which his head struck a concrete wall – left Tony with a broken bone in his throat and a brain injury.

Julia said the sudden, unprovoked attack about midnight on 25 September, near a bar on Manchester Street, terrified her.

“The fact that it didn’t matter how much I called, I couldn’t get anybody to help, including the security guard.

“Tony was grabbed in full view (of the guard) and I’m sure he could hear my screams,” she said.

Police gained access to the CCTV footage from the bar and posted the alleged attacker’s photo to Facebook.

Less than 24 hours later, they had arrested him.

He appeared in the district court last Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to injure or with reckless disregard.

He will reappear in February.

The assault is one of a series of violent crimes in the central city, including a fatal attack on a 61-year-old man on Cashel Street in October.

Tony said during his time living in Cabrini-Green in Chicago as a child, one of the worst social housing disasters in the United States, he had seen crime every day and of every type.

He had been back and forth to New Zealand since he was a child, moving here permanently in 1998, but the assault was a “first time” for him and he had not expected it.

Julia said the couple had been to a comedy show and decided to stop by the Manchester Street bar for a drink before going home.

“We ended up talking to some people that were sitting at the next table,” she said.

They interacted with the people who were having a party and Tony bought a round of drinks for them.

They then decided to head further into town, but changed their minds and turned back towards the bar with the intention of going home – and that is when Tony was attacked.

Julia took Tony home but he collapsed and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

A broken throat bone was found to be restricting his ability to breathe.

“They did have to put him into an induced coma to ensure his airways didn’t continue swelling and he could breathe because he was desperate for air,” she said.

Tony left hospital after three nights, but continues to suffer from his brain injury, getting severe headaches and fatigue and having issues with memory recall and cognitive processing.

Said Tony: “It’s just a few connections with the mind that aren’t fully firing.”

He was also unable to work full-time as an engineer.

The alleged offender was bailed to an address only 2.6 kilometres away from Tony and Julia’s home.

“I know the offender is nearby … I’m very much on alert of where this person is. I don’t want to encounter them,” Julia said.

Tony did not think it was acceptable and, though it did not bother him too much, he thought it was “poor practice”.

“My wife is furious, she went on a war path,” he said.

This story was first published on the [ Otago Daily Times].

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