The shocking death of a man attacked outside McDonald’s in the early hours of last Sunday does not reflect the reality of Huddersfield’s nightlife.
That’s the view of the chairman of a group which has patrolled the town centre for the last 10 years.
Ian Atkinson, chairman of Huddersfield’s Street Angels, a team of Christian volunteers who provide assistance to revellers who’ve had too much to drink, spoke out on Saturday night a week on from the attack on family man Graham Bell.
Mr Bell, 37, of Dalton, was subjected to what police described as a “violent assault” in Kirkgate at 12.40am. He suffered serious head injuries and died in hospital on Wednesday.
Two boys, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on suspicion of assault and later released on bail.
Mr Atkinson spoke to the Examiner as he patrolled the town centre with fellow member Ann Talboys and his wife Karen.
He said: “We are out in Huddersfield town centre almost every weekend but unfortunately we weren’t able to get a team out last weekend. What happened last weekend was a one-off and hopefully it will be a very long time before anything like that ever happens again.”
Asked whether he thought McDonald’s had been unfairly stigmatised following the incident and a number of reported brawls both inside and outside the restaurant in recent months he said: “It’s unfortunate that McDonald’s is open all the time. If it was going to close somewhere else would take over.”
Mrs Atkinson, who has patrolled the streets for seven years, added: “It’s not a true reflection of what we see week in and week out on a Saturday night. People are just generally having a good time.”
Ms Talboys said violence was not the norm and added: “It’s not my experience of what happens on a Saturday night.
“We were very surprised at the age of the two boys arrested. We don’t normally see that age group in the town centre at all. Everyone out is 18-years-old-plus.”
Police had said they would be conducting an ‘information seek’ outside McDonald’s between 11pm and 1am but there was no sign of them when the Examiner was there.
Officers were due to be handing out flyers and asking the public for more information.
On the night there was a boisterous mood, as always, across the town centre but nothing more sinister than that.
Two bouquets outside McDonald’s gave the only indication of what had happened a week earlier.