Meldreth victim speaks out after man jailed for vicious attack that almost left him blind


- Credit: Archant

An academic from Meldreth who was attacked so viciously he was temporarily blinded in one eye, has spoken to the Crow of the impact the assault has had on his life after the man responsible was jailed.

The victim – who works as a scientist but did not want to be named for fear of retribution – was beaten up by Richard Harper, 43, of no fixed address, in August last year.

He had been travelling from Meldreth to London on a Sunday evening when he woke up at Welwyn Garden City railway station to find his bag containing his laptop and iPad was missing.

After being told by passengers it had been stolen, he chased Harper and Robert Osborn, 41, of Dacre Road, Hitchin, through the station.

Catching up with the pair, he told them to give the bag back, but Harper replied ‘it’s mine now’.

He hit the victim hard in his left eye, smashing through his eye socket and creating a hole in the bone.

He then kicked and punched him repeatedly about 15 times. Nobody was around to witness the assault.

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The man, who is in his 50s, told the Crow that the ferocity of the attack made him think ‘I might not get out of this alive’.

When Harper paused for a second, the victim, who describes himself as a peacemaker in confrontational situations, said: “I’m a doctor, I need the information in that bag.”

Harper then handed the bag back and walked off.

The man said: “It was surreal. I was expecting him to carry on hitting me. Maybe he has had a good experience with doctors in the past.”

He then walked through the station concerned he would pass out from concussion, but was helped by members of the public who called 999. He was taken to Stevenage’s Lister Hospital. For a few days he feared he would be permanently blind in his left eye, but he has now made a full physical recovery.

But he admits that since the attack he has ‘big problems’ coping with his anxiety.

“When something like this happens you become less able to cope with other things, rather than being anxious about the event. It lowers your guard,” he said.

Harper was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison on May 15 for causing grievous bodily harm with intent and theft.

Osborn did not take part in the attack, but was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison for theft at a hearing last year.

The victim said he is ‘very glad’ that Harper is off the streets as he feared in another confrontational situation ‘he might not stop.’

He said: “I hope he gets the chance to rehabilitate and would think twice about doing it again when he does come out.”

The victim would not confront a thief in the future, and has warned others against doing so.

He added: “You have no idea if the other person is armed. If there is no one there, they could do whatever they like to you.”