FOR six months he has suffered in silence following the attack by Huddersfield Giants’ star Paul Whatuira.
But after being rebuffed by the Galpharm-based club and having had no personal apology, Almondbury man Robert Campbell has reluctantly spoken about the unprovoked attack that he says has ruined his life.
Mr Campbell was left lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood with his front teeth knocked out after he was set upon by Whatuira last year.
The father-of-two had been walking from his car to start his 6am shift at TWL Engineering on St Thomas’ Road, Folly Hall, when the Giant’s star sprinted towards him, shouting obscenities.
The player, known as Fatz, had just left a mental health unit at St Luke’s Hospital, Crosland Moor, and had already assaulted another passerby that dark October morning.
Reliving the attack, 43-year-old Mr Campbell, who is tall but slightly built, said: “I saw him screaming and shouting.
“He was quite far away, running down waving his arms about.
“I just thought I’d keep my head down, not make eye contact and get into work and start my day.
“I didn’t speak to him, didn’t do anything, didn’t even eyeball him.
“I was just 20ft away from the front door and I thought I’d just get in.
“He ran alongside me and before I knew it he just laid into me.
“He hit me twice around the side of the head before I realised what had happened. The next one must have knocked me straight out.
“I woke up on the floor in my own blood with my teeth on the floor.”
The 28-year-old New Zealand-born rugby player later revealed his breakdown was sparked by memories of abuse he suffered as a child and the crisis had pushed him to the brink of suicide.
Mr Campbell, who worked as a toolmaker, suffered lacerations to his mouth and lips, severe damage to his teeth and was badly bruised.
Since the attack he has suffered with headaches, has had trouble sleeping and has quit his job.
“I had the perfect work record up to then,’’ he said. “But after the incident I was pulled up for lateness and I decided I didn’t want to work there anymore. I wanted a day job.”
“He has not personally come and apologised to me.
“I saw him in the paper and on television talking about how he’s recovered. He’s going on like he’s the victim, but what about me? He was back in training after three weeks while I was still off work.”
And Mr Campbell said he had received very little in the way of victim support.
“I got a leaflet through the door from the police but I don’t feel like I’ve had any support whatsoever,’’ he said.
“I didn’t know what to do. I’m a bit of a recluse. I just locked myself in my house and went about my own business.
“I’ve lost a stone in weight – I couldn’t eat properly for the first few weeks. “Even now I can’t bite stuff because my teeth are loose.
“It makes me mad the way he’s getting on with his life and I’m still reeling from the effects of what he’s done to me.”
Mr Campbell’s wife Fiona, 43, said the assault had shocked the family and had affected their relationship. And she recalls the moment she was told her husband had been attacked.
She said: “Can you imagine how me and my kids felt having to drag them out of bed at 6am not even knowing if he was going to be alive?
“He’d been beaten, he’d been attacked, he was unconscious.
“It was a shock and it was a shock for the kids as well.
“Every time he goes to work I’m thinking ‘oh God’. Sometimes he gets mad about it.
“Whenever we pick up the paper and see him (Whatuira), it’s just poor old Paul all the time. If he’s so remorseful he needs to apologise to Rob and the kids and get his hands in his pocket and pay for Rob’s teeth at the very least.” Mr Campbell’s solicitor, Mark Morrell, said: “Because Rob is the victim of a crime of violence he does have an avenue to the criminal injuries compensation body which is government money, but that’s a last resort. Why should the rugby player deflect the claim to them?”
A letter from the Huddersfield Giants’ legal team at Ramsdens Solicitors to Mr Campbell’s solicitors, Ludgate Morrell, on November 17 last year states the club could not take any responsibility for the attack.
It states: “There is absolutely no connection between your client’s alleged assault and Mr Whatuira’s employment or the discharge of his duties on behalf of the club.”
The letter finishes: “On behalf of the club, we are instructed to wish your client a speedy recovery.”
After the Examiner contacted Ramsdens solicitors they sent a letter to Ludgate Morrell which states: “Our client is extremely sorry for any injuries and distress and inconvenience caused to your client.’’
But it then stresses that Whatuira was “in a state of extreme mental illness at the time and was in such a psychotic state so as not to be in control of his actions.’’
It adds: “In the circumstances liability is denied either in negligence or in terms of an actionable assault.’’
Mr Whatuira’s representative, Steven Singh – also from Ramsdens Solicitors – said his client had not made a personal apology or paid any compensation because of the prospect of legal action.
He added: “Mr Whatuira is sorry for his actions but the incident happened at a time when he was mentally ill and not in control of his actions.”
Mr Campbell will be able to claim for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
Its rules state: “It is not necessary for the assailant to have been convicted of a criminal offence in connection with the injury.
“Moreover, even where the injury is attributable to conduct in respect of which the assailant cannot be convicted of an offence by reason of age, insanity or diplomatic immunity, the conduct may, nevertheless, be treated as constituting a criminal act.’’
Statement from Huddersfield Giants re Paul Whatuira attack
BOTH the club and Paul Whatuira have previously expressed their sympathy to all concerned in what was a most unfortunate set of circumstances and outside the control of the club or any of those involved in the incident.
On the 12th Nov a letter was received from Ludgate Morrell in respect of a possible legal claim in connection with the incident. As it was received from a firm of lawyers the club’s solicitors formally responded on the 17th Nov making special reference to wishing their client a speedy recovery.
A further letter was received on 24th Nov from Ludgate Morrell by the Giants solicitors enclosing a letter to be passed to Paul Whatuira. This letter was duly passed to Paul and the club understands was responded to by his lawyers.
On 16th Dec, Ludgate Morrell asked the club’s lawyers to confirm that the letter had been passed to Paul Whatuira and this was formally confirmed on 22nd Dec.
We are not aware of any other correspondence and are advised that the club has acted properly in all respects in connection with this matter.