Police in Armagh are continuing their investigation after a young man with autism was assaulted by a gang of up to 20 while leaving a cinema with his brother.
John McQuaid (27), who has Asperger’s syndrome, was with his brother Sean (25) when they were beaten by a group of males outside the cinema in the Scotch Street area of Armagh City.
The group have been described by the victims as foreign nationals.
John suffered a seizure which his family believe was caused by the attack, and the young man has been left badly addicted by the assault, as per a report in the Belfast Telegraph.
Both men suffered cuts and bruises during the attack and shared photos of their facial injuries, leaving the wounded men left bleeding on the street. The broad daylight attack has left both fearful of walking alone. Recalling the attack, John’s brother Sean McQuaid told the paper:
“After the movie we were leaving the cinema and there was this big group in front of us and they weren’t really moving.
“John sort of shoved into one of them, so he turned around and I just said: ‘Sorry, look he has learning difficulties, he doesn’t mean anything by it’.
“To be fair, that man was okay and just moved on,” he said.
However, once the pair watched the cinema, the group approached them.
“But once we had actually got out of the cinema more of them came up to us and I said again: ‘Look, we don’t want any bother, he has learning difficulties’.
“They didn’t listen; one of them pushed me and then it just started from there.”
Fortunately for the pair, there were people present who tried to stop it. The incident only ended when a young female who was nearby called the police.
According to Sean McQuade, the incident could have been much worse.
“I didn’t see, but I heard someone shouting (about one of the attackers): ‘He has a knife, he has a knife,’” he told The Belfast Telegraph.
“I didn’t see, because there were, like, seven on me at that point. But a lot of the people were shouting at him and trying to get him away,” he said.
Giving an interview to the Irish News following the weekend attack, Pamela McQuaid said both her sons had been left traumatised, as she appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
“John has learning problems and he took a massive seizure that night and ended up in Craigavon hospital,” she said.
“We didn’t get home till 7am the next morning. Sean’s mouth and face is now completely black because they just went for their heads. They didn’t go to any other parts of their body,” she said.
Speaking to local paper Armagh I, a family member said that without intervention from a young female who called the police, something “much, much worse” could have happened.
“The two of them went to the cinema to watch the new Fast and Furious movie, she explained. “John has Aspergers Syndrome. He has the mind of a 9-year-old.
“This cinema trip has been planned from Monday because John has to know where he’s going, it’s part of his routine, he has to know.
“The two of them were dropped down by their daddy, left to the cinema and away on in they went. These boys were already in the cinema. They were pushing and shoving at John because John would be blowing – stimming – he does that and you can tell he has difficulties.
“There were about 20 of them. John came over to try and get them all off Sean and they ended up attacking him too. They were Bulgarian-Romanian, Sean said.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that you can’t even go to the cinema with your brother in your own town – he can’t even go to the cinema with his brother. It’s an absolute disgrace,” she told the paper.
The family member added: “Only there was a young girl who rang the police, Sean would have been kicked and punched to death.”
Two teenagers who were arrested on suspicion of assault and affray on Wednesday have now been released.
A PSNI spokesperson said they had “been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service” and that enquiries are continuing. Police have asked anyone with information to contact them via 101.