A SECOND YEAR student lost his hearing after being hit around the head with a cricket bat in Fulford last month.
Ben Taite feared he had been struck deaf in one ear following the attack, which occurred near the river on Friday 13th May. The assault is the latest local example of the nationwide ‘slap happy’ craze, where teenage gangs film themselves attacking others on their mobile phones.
“I was sitting by the river in Fulford, an area I had always considered fairly safe. It was about quarter to eight and I was engrossed in my book but there were other people about”, Taite said.
“Suddenly I felt the full force of a cricket bat against my right ear. I looked up and there were eight or ten kids standing there, probably aged between twelve and fifteen. I just yelled ‘what have you done?’ I thought they had deafened me.”
The teenagers, who had filmed the incident on their mobiles, ran off when Taite rang the police. Because he had been in a fairly secluded spot by the river, no one else on the green had seen the attack take place.
When Taite arrived at York City Hospital, nurses told him there were three other victims of slap happy attacks in there at the same time. The other incidents had occurred when the victims were walking down the street and attacked from behind.
Ironically, Taite had read about ‘happy slapping’ in a newspaper that morning. The craze, which started in South London, has already led to the rape of an eleven-year old school girl, whose experience was circulated around the school. However, York Police claimed to have never heard of the craze before.
Taite suffered internal bleeding in his ear and a perforated ear drum. The specialist couldn’t be sure how much hearing would return and for some weeks he had very minimal hearing in his right ear.
Fortunately, now his hearing has almost completely returned. “I’m very thankful that I haven’t lost my hearing, because I really thought it had gone. I was just so annoyed when it happened because it was so senseless: there was no point to it whatsoever. It seems that some kids with not much sense are getting caught up in this fad and just going along with it. I still go out and enjoy the nice weather but it’s sad that I am always a bit more cautious now.”
Police issue warning
North Yorkshire Police have urged students to guard against violent crime when walking near campus, following a spate of attacks on the main pedestrian routes.
Spokesman Tony Lidgate stressed that York has a very low crime rate, but advised that students should take precautions, using taxis rather than walking alone at night. He cautioned against wearing things that identify you as a student, like college sweatshirts. “Make sure your body language says I’m not afraid – I’m a capable person. If you look vulnerable and scared you are an easier target.”
Since January there have been three attacks on students on Hull Road and Tang Hall, all between 8 and 10pm. Police patrols have increased, while Community Support Officers and University Security have tightened security on campus. The descriptions of the various attackers do not concur but the University’s advice is to be alert against “violently anti-social behaviour, by teenage white males” and to stay in groups where possible.
By Heloise Wood – DEPUTY EDITOR