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Anger after homeless man, 60, kicked in head in Norwich street attack

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 April 2011 | UPDATED: 11:55 18 April 2011

Police have launched an appeal after a violent attack on a homeless man in Norwich.

Police have launched an appeal after a violent attack on a homeless man in Norwich.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

A vicious attack in Norwich where a homeless man had to be taken to hospital after he was kicked in the head has been condemned by police, charities and city leaders.

The 60-year-old victim, described by police as “vulnerable and defenceless”, was set upon while he was sat in his sleeping bag underneath a bridge in the early hours of the morning.

The man had to be taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with head injuries after the attack, which Norfolk police said was totally unprovoked.

Police said the attack happened underneath the south side of the Novi Sad Friendship bridge, which connects King Street to Riverside.

It happened at around 1.30am on Wednesday and police are appealing for witnesses to get in touch.

Pc Keith Oldmeadow, of Norfolk police, said; “This appears to have been a totally unprovoked attack on a vulnerable, defenceless homeless man, resulting in him needing hospital treatment.

“We would appeal for any witnesses to come forward to assist us with our enquiries.”

The attack was condemned by charities which work with the homeless and by the city councillor working to help keep people off the streets.

Tim Sweeting, chief executive of the YMCA in Norwich, said: “It’s a sad truth that many people think, especially after they have got a couple of drinks in them, that homeless people are somehow subhuman,

“But this sort of attack is unacceptable. We need to remind people that they are only ever a couple of steps away from becoming homeless themselves; it’s something which can happen very easily.

“This sort of attack should be condemned and I certainly hope the wider community will help the police to bring those responsible to justice, so they can be made an example of.

“Just because people do not have a house does not mean they should not be valued and treated as human beings.”

Mr Sweeting said the fear of attack is one of the biggest worries for the people who sleep rough on the city’s streets.
He said: “Even more than the cold, it’s the insecurity they feel, of being a target, which is why so many of them are hidden away and why it can be so hard for us to find them to offer help.”

Brenda Arthur, Norwich City Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, also condemned the attack.

She said: “It’s appalling. I do not understand what brings people to do this kind of thing. It’s hard enough for people living on the streets without this happening.
“This is someone who has found somewhere quiet to bed down, not making any trouble, and for someone to decide to beat them up is shocking.

“These people do not have any respect for their fellow human beings and I hope they are caught so they can be taught that respect. I would encourage anyone with information to come forward and get in touch with the police.”

It is not the first time that homeless people have been attacked in Norwich.

Last Christmas Eve, a 28-year-old Good Samaritan stepped in to stop two men who were assaulting a homeless man close to the Job Centre Plus in Pottergate and was himself assaulted.

In 2007 officers launched an appeal after a vicious attack on a homeless man in Norwich’s Prince of Wales Road was uploaded to video sharing site YouTube.

And in January 2002, Big Issue seller Keith Swan, 32, was repeatedly punched and kicked by at the corner of Brazengate and Queen’s Road in Norwich.

He died from head injuries at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, two days after the attack and two men were jailed after they admitted manslaughter.

Anyone who has information about the attack at the Friendship Bridge should call PC Keith Oldmeadow at Norfolk police on 0845 456 4567 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

• Do you have a crime story for the Evening News? Call crime correspondent Ben Kendall on 01603 772423 or email ben.kendall@archant.co.uk

• Comment - page 8

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