It was supposed to be a happy Christmas morning shared with his two young children.
Instead, Jared Grafton was in hospital, lucky to survive a vicious street attack by up to four men as he walked to get a burger in Richmond.
Grafton, 28, is recovering at home after four days in Nelson and Hutt hospitals, where doctors treated fractures to his jaw and facial bones from the assault in Queen St.
Tired and in pain, he has his broken nose in plaster, two black eyes, his fractured bones realigned and attached to muscle, and staples down the side of his face.
Police say the attack - in Queen St, near York Lane and the town's Burger King outlet - had the potential to be fatal. They are reviewing security camera footage and appealling for information about the attackers.
Grafton's 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter live with him on alternate weeks. He celebrated a belated Christmas with them yesterday.
He was upset that the attack had spoiled his children's Christmas, and mad at himself for going out on Christmas Eve, said his mother, Paula Edwards.
Grafton said he remembered nothing about the attack.
Edwards learned of the attack when she opened her door at night to find a policeman giving her the message every mother does not want to receive: that her son had been badly injured, and she should go to the hospital.
She said Grafton went from his Tuffnell St home to visit friends in Staig St that night, and was seen walking from there between 8.30pm and 9pm. He reportedly met up with a couple and went to the Sprig and Fern Tavern in Queen St, leaving around closing time at 10pm.
She understood that, when the attack happened, shortly after midnight, he was with two other men. Although Police say the pair, who have been interviewed, were some distance away when the attack happened.
Her message to the attackers is: "Do yourself a favour, give yourselves up. You have done some pretty horrendous damage. Be a man about it and own up."
Grafton's father, Bill, who lives in Queensland, said police told him that his son stopped breathing as he lay unconscious on the footpath after the attack, in which he was repeatedly kicked in the face.
Bill Grafton said the men in the van yelled abuse as they passed his son and two others walking to the Burger King. Jared said something back, and the four men jumped out and attacked him.
He said it was a huge shock when Edwards told him about the attack on Christmas morning.
"They just kicked him in the gutter.
"I want these people caught and I want them to go to jail, because that's where they deserve to be. They are cowards, absolute cowards.
"I know my son, he's not confrontational. He had done nothing wrong. On Christmas Eve, surely you can have a beer and go out and get a burger without being attacked."
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Police are looking for a black Toyota Hiace van or similar vehicle with a matt paint finish and tinted windows. It was with a black or dark-coloured SUV similar to a Toyota Surf or Nissan Terrano. Police would like to talk with the occupants. Anyone who saw the attack in Queen St shortly after midnight on Christmas morning or who has information can contact Nelson police, ph 548 3840. Anonymous information can be given to Crimestoppers, 0800 555 111.