Jesse Ryder critical, in coma after bashings
ASHLEIGH STEWART, BLAIR ENSOR, OLIVIA CARVILLE AND STACEY KIRK
Video footage from a Christchurch bar shows the vicious assault on Jesse Ryder was "completely unexpected", the bar owner says.
Early this morning the Kiwi cricketer was attacked twice in quick succession, suffering serious head injuries in the second part of what one witness called a "Jesse hate fight".
Ryder, 28, is in a critical condition in an induced coma at Christchurch Hospital with multiple injuries including a fractured skull.
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Aikmans bar owner Steve Holmes said after reviewing the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage the assault was "completely unexpected".
Holmes said Ryder, who had played cricket for Wellington against Canterbury in Christchurch yesterday, was leaving the Merivale bar about 12.30am with 10 to 12 of his teammates.
He was the last in the group to leave and as he was doing so, Holmes said one of the alleged attackers called out to him.
Ryder went back to talk to the man and the two appeared to chat before shaking hands, Holmes said.
After a few minutes he said the "body language changed" between the two. Ryder walked out of the bar and the man followed him, seemingly yelling after him.
An older man, who was at Aikmans with the other man, also followed and Holmes said there was a bit of "pushing and shoving" outside the bar before Ryder walked away.
The two men followed and attacked the cricketer again.
Holmes said one of the bar's senior staff members broke up the fight and stopped the attackers from re-entering the bar while Ryder staggered over the road to the Merivale McDonald's fastfood restaurant.
After telling the attackers "they were not welcome", the staff member went to check on Ryder and realised "just how bad it was".
Holmes said he had "no idea" how the fight started.
"One of the groups was outside and one was inside. There was no altercation until the cricket team left basically.
"No-one was heavily intoxicated, it was just a mediocre Wednesday night," he said.
"We didn't have security on because it was quiet night of the week and we didn't need it.
"Obviously the bar sends its best wishes to Jesse's family over Easter. We wish him a speedy recovery."
SERIOUS INJURIES IN SECOND ATTACK
Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said it was in the second attack outside the nearby McDonald's in which Ryder sustained his most serious injuries.
Police were still working to understand any motives for the attack. They have not publicly released photos or CCTV footage, suggesting they had suspects.
Archer said most of Ryder's teammates were in McDonald's ordering food when he was attacked.
Ryder - who has had a well-publicised battle with alcohol - had been drinking. But alcohol was not an aggravating factor in the attack, which was witnessed by about 10 people, he said.
END OF SEASON CELEBRATIONS
The attack happened while the Wellington Firebirds cricket team was enjoying a night out after their season ended that day with a loss to the Canterbury Wizards in the one-day competition.
New Zealand Cricket Players' Association chief executive Heath Mills said Ryder had well-known issues with alcohol in the past, but this was believed to be separate to that.
"It will be an ongoing struggle for Jesse and we need to do all we can to help him.
''What I will say is Jesse was having a few drinks with his teammates at the conclusion of his season."
Mills was aware of a couple of other recent occassions where Ryder - who had been "fighting some demons" for years - had been drinking.
Wellington Cricket was satisfied from police reports that team alcohol policies were being adhered to by players last night. There were some alcohol protocols around the team, but Ryder was believed not to be in violation of his contract.
'JESSE HATE FIGHT'
A man who intervened in Jesse Ryder's "vicious" beating believed the cricketer was ambushed.
Regan Harvey, who has given a statement to the police, said the attack was completely unprovoked and he described it as a "Jesse hate fight".
Harvey said he was drinking at an outdoor table in Aikmans when he heard a "dust up" outside.
"As I walked out there were a couple of guys beating up this one guy on the ground as they were calling him a wanker," he said.
One of the attackers did "two massive kicks" into Ryder's stomach and rib cage that were so violent it made Harvey "wince".
Harvey, 32, approached the group with his arms out saying: "I think he has had enough, back off guys."
"At that stage I was trying to weigh up how fight-ready these guys were, in case they tried to turn on me," he said.
A woman Ryder had left the bar with quickly ran to his side and tried to help him up.
When Ryder got to his feet, with his shirt ripped in two, he faced the men and tried to act brave before "stumbling" into the McDonald's car park, leaning on the woman.
Minutes later, Harvey walked to the McDonald's car park to try and help Ryder and found him "unconscious and lying on his side in the recovery position".
"As far as I can tell Jesse has done nothing wrong here. It looked like it was completely unprovoked," Harvey said.
Another witness, who would only be known as Adam, described seeing Ryder having his shirt ripped from his back and lying on the ground as four men kicked and punched him outside Aikmans.
Ryder was lying in a bush "shaking, vomiting and covered in blood" in the McDonald's carpark when two ambulances arrived to assist him.
Adam, who was drinking at the bar, said the brawl broke out behind him.
"From what I could tell it looked pretty unprovoked," he said.
"Four dudes were just laying into him and absolutely smashing him on the ground. His shirt was ripped off and they were kicking him and punching him while he was down."
Ryder managed to stand up during the attack but was quickly knocked back to the ground, Adam said.
He was not sure if the men were friends of Ryder, but said they "damn knew who he was".
Ryder's attackers were swearing at him as they beat him. The four men ran off when sirens were heard, he said.
Emma Ferguson was also at Aikmans having a drink with friends when the incident unfolded in front of her on the footpath outside the bar's entrance.
"Jesse walked out of the bar and was standing outside when a group of three or four guys were literally just on him - punching and kicking [him].
"It seemed as if all of a sudden there was a fight."
Within seconds Ryder was on the ground and while she couldn't see him being assaulted, because a wall obscured her view, she could hear the blows landing.
"They were kicking him very hard. As hard as they could. It was pretty horrific."
A group of people from inside the bar went to Ryder's aid and pulled the attackers off him.
"I couldn't believe that he [Jesse] managed to get up again."
His shirt was ripped and he stumbled across the road and collapsed at the entrance to the McDonalds' car park, Ferguson said.
"Then he started vomiting and shaking.
"I felt it [the attack] was completely unprovoked. It just seemed to come out of nowhere on a very idle ... night. It was very brutal.''
Patron Alysha Green said Ryder was with a group and all of them were drinking, but did not seem "overly intoxicated".
"They weren't causing any drama or drawing attention to themselves."
There were only about 20 people in the bar when she left about 11.30pm.
"It was a good vibe. Everyone was calm and peaceful."
In July last year, a 20-year-old suffered head and neck injuries after he was "glassed" in the side of the head with a beer bottle in Aikmans. He was discharged from hospital the following day.
Prime Minister John Key, in Christchurch for other matters, said the attack was a "very serious situation".
"It sounds quite sinister to me. I mean the fact that there would be four guys attacking him, the media reports I saw looked somewhat unprovoked and there must be something behind that.
"The assault seems very vicious so obviously we wish him a speedy recovery and I'm sure the police will be working to get to the bottom of it."
MESSAGES OF SUPPORT
Ryder was due to fly out on Saturday to start his $300,000 contract in the Indian Premier League. Yesterday, he was dismissed for a first-ball duck against Canterbury.
Ryder, 28, is in a self-imposed exile from international cricket, resisting calls to return to the Black Caps scene. He has not played for New Zealand since February last year.
Black Cap star Ross Taylor tweeted his support this morning, saying he was thinking of Ryder, while a tweet from the Black Caps' team account echoed that thought.
Ryder's manager Aaron Klee tweeted: "Thanks for the calls and msgs of support for Jesse. Just heading to Chch to see him."
Ryder's boxing trainer Billy Graham was "devastated".
"I just hope he pulls through, I don't know what else to say,'' he said.
Graham worked extensively with Ryder in the ring while he swore off alcohol and said he thought Ryder had reached a really good place.
Cricket Wellington director Robbie Kerr called Graham about the incident this morning. Graham was meant to be receiving an award on Ryder's behalf on Tuesday night.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White issued a statement saying ''we are all shocked by what has occurred and extremely concerned for Jesse.
''New Zealand Cricket's thoughts are with him and his family.''
White, Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton and New Zealand Cricket Players' Association boss, Heath Mills, were going to Christchurch.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted that it was "devastating news" and he hoped Ryder would pull through.
Ryder's career has been blighted by off-field incidents, usually involving alcohol, though he appeared to be in a stable mindset this summer where he played consistently well for the Firebirds.
Last year, he and team-mate Doug Bracewell were reprimanded by Black Caps team management for "unacceptable behaviour" after the pair "verbally reacted to taunts from a member of the public" outside a Napier bar.
Ryder has been dropped from the Black Caps side multiple times, and in 2010 revealed his own troubled history with alcohol.
"Dad bounced when I was about 14; he just took off man. He just dropped me off at a mate's one day and said he'd see me in a week. He never came back," Ryder said in an interview.
"That's probably where that rebel streak and badness comes from. I just didn't have any boundaries once he left.
"I guess I could be classed as a bad boy and it's true, I did like going out on the p**s. It wasn't so much fighting, more so just getting on the beers with the boys."
He said he had a real habit of binge drinking.
"I would be with my boys and we'd do drinking games. It was like 'bang' and I would be sculling drinks throughout the night which probably caused most of my problems."
- The Press
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