heart of gold | 

Irishman (61) in critical condition after gang attack in New Zealand

A friend of the victim described him as a “a man with a heart of gold – a hell of a nice guy”

Downtown Christchurch

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

An Irishman described as a “hell of a nice guy” has been left fighting for his life after he was set upon by a gang in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

The 61-year-old is in a critical condition after he was allegedly assaulted after being chased by a gang of people though the centre of the city at about 6.20pm on Tuesday.

He suffered a serious head injury after he ran from near the bus interchange in Colombo Street before he was attacked in Cashel Street.

He was rushed to Christchurch Hospital where he remains in a critical condition.

Local reports say an 18-year-old man was arrested in relation to the incident and appeared in Christchurch District Court on Wednesday.

“It is unclear what sparked the incident, but several youths are thought to have been in the group that chased the victim of the alleged assault,” local media states.

The victim, who was born in Ireland but moved to New Zealand many years ago, describes himself online as a self-employed horticulturalist and landscaper.

He lived in Wellington before moving to Christchurch and was a member of the Christchurch Folk Club and the Christchurch Irish Society.

A friend of the victim who described him as a “a man with a heart of gold – a hell of a nice guy” said he was generous with his time.

“Last weekend, he spent several hours landscaping a memorial garden at the Irish Society’s clubrooms and was always willing to help out wherever he could,” his friend told local media.

The accused teenager, who is from Halswell, appeared in Christchurch District Court on Wednesday afternoon and was granted interim name suppression to preserve his fair trial rights.

He was remanded in custody without plea until Thursday when he will make an application for bail.

The victim’s overseas family requested privacy.

The alleged assault comes amid rising concerns about anti-social behaviour at the bus interchange where a brawl broke out among a group of about six young people during rush hour recently.

Christchurch City Council acting resources general manager Jane O’Toole said there had been an “increase in disorder incidents” at the bus interchange in recent months.

Two security guards have patrolled the city centre over the past three months under a pilot scheme aimed at deterring and resolving anti-social behaviour near private businesses.

The Central City Business Association met for its annual meeting on Tuesday and members voted to extend the patrol for summer.

According to stuff.co.nz, Association chairperson Annabel Turley said the patrol had become too successful to stop.

Turley said the feedback they had received from businesses and visitors about the safety of the city had been positive.

“Compared with other cities around the country, Christchurch is actually very safe.

“It is unfortunate this event has happened in the central city. Overall, feedback I have received is that people feel safe,” she said.

Canterbury police district's youth services manager, Senior Sergeant Phil Newton, said police had noticed an increase in offending around the central city bus interchange and the Riccarton bus lounge in recent months.

Police were working with various agencies to try to make both locations safer and patrols had been increased in the central city in recent weeks.

Newton said it was important that people report crimes so police had a full picture of what was happening.

Part of Cashel St was cordoned off after Tuesday night’s incident.

At least 10 officers were at the scene, outside Ballantynes. Some were seen examining items on the ground, including a bag propped up against the shop wall.

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