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 unprovoked 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.
His father, Bill Grafton, says his son nearly died. He is prepared to offer a reward to catch the culprits.
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 is a stay-at-home dad whose 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, which he found embarrassing.
Edwards, a caregiver to elderly residents, 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. Police say the pair, who have been interviewed, met Grafton several minutes earlier and were some distance away when the attack happened.
Edwards said the black customised van the attackers were in could be local, as a police officer believed he had seen it before.
She believed it was a random assault and that Grafton was not targeted.
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."
Bill Grafton, 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.
Witnesses had told police that they "heard the bones crunch" during the attack.
Fortunately, a police officer on a routine patrol in the area was quickly on the scene and was about to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation when Jared started breathing again.
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."
Grafton said he had spoken with his son in Hutt Hospital. "He said if it had been a 60-year-old man [who was] attacked, they would have killed him."
Grafton, who moved to Queensland about five years ago, said he was prepared to offer a reward to help catch those responsible.
"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."
Jared never got to Burger King, but after arriving back home in Richmond he managed to eat a McDonald's burger and bought a Lotto ticket.
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.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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