West Midlands: Three teenagers arrested after nine people attacked on canal towpaths
September 25, 2012, 1:09 pm
Three teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of assault after nine separate attacks on canal towpaths in Wolverhampton, where six of the victims have been deliberately pushed into the water.
The spate of offences began on the evening of 12 September, when a 40-year-old cyclist was shoved in the shoulder and fell into the canal near Gorsebrook Road in Whitmore Reans.
He did not report the matter to police until he heard about the other similar attacks which took place over the following hours and days.
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The group struck again just an hour later, this time pushing a 51-year-old man off his bike and into the water. He suffered amongst other superficial injuries a shattered kneecap, which required surgery.
On Thursday 13 September the group attacked four more people aged 72, 71, 33 and 61. They suffered a range of injuries from cuts on the leg, to cracked ribs. The 33-year-old challenged the group and was not pushed into the water but he was racially abused by his attackers.
The serious nature of the offences prompted police to dramatically increase patrols across Wolverhampton’s canal network, with officers working round the clock to identify the offenders.
Despite this, three further attacks took place on 14 and 19 September with men aged 49, 62 and 72 all falling victim to the canal thugs. The 72-year-old was pushed into the water but the other two fought back, with the youths instead grabbing the 62-year-old’s glasses from his face and throwing them into the canal.
A breakthrough in the investigation came on Friday afternoon (21 August).
Following extensive work with local schools, police swooped on three addresses and arrested boys aged 13, 14 and 15 on suspicion of assault.
All have been released on police bail pending further enquiries, with strict conditions imposed on their movements which prohibit them from going anywhere near the canal network.
The investigation is being led by PC Joe Trusselle and PC Gavin Plumridge from Staveley House police base in Whitmore Reans.
PC Trusselle said: “These attacks have quite understandably shocked and disgusted the local community as well as the officers working on the case.
“Never in all my time in the police have I seen such brazen acts of malice on completely innocent members of the public, for seemingly no other reason than getting a sickening personal kick.
“Those responsible clearly have no regard for their victims and no remorse for their actions, committing the same offence over and over again, day after day.
“I hope these arrests will reassure people that action is being taken, that we’re confident of putting a stop to the assaults and that the canal network has returned to the safe place it always has been.
“High-visibility patrols will remain in place across the city’s tow paths.”
The assaults have caused outrage amongst local residents, so much so that the manufacturer of the electric bike belonging to the 71-year-old victim has offered to repair it for free.
The Canal & River Trust the new charity entrusted with the care of 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales have also spoken out about the assaults.
Dean Davies, senior waterways manager from the trust, said: “We are appalled to hear that this kind of anti-social activity is taking place on our canal tow paths.
“The canals in this area are a lovely place to visit I hope this recent spate of attacks does not deter people from spending time discovering their local waterway.”
Anyone who feels they may be able to assist officers in relation to this investigation is asked to call Wolverhampton Police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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