One punch ruined my life

PUBLISHED: 12:13 11 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK man who almost lost his life in a brutal assault outside a nightclub has said the attack has left him a broken man.

A SUFFOLK man who almost lost his life in a brutal assault outside a nightclub today said the attack has left him a broken man.

Father-of-four Justin Huggins was nearly killed in a fight outside Liquid in Cardinal Park, Ipswich.

The attack has changed his life forever and the 31-year-old former roofer is now unable to work, look after his children or even catch a bus alone.

A single blow to the head sustained in the brawl nearly one year ago has left him with epilepsy, a

stutter and frequent fits.

Doctors had warned his partner, Julie Pulham, that he may not pull through.

Today they describe his recovery as a miracle but "Huggy", as he was affectionately known, is carrying mental and physical scars that will never heal.

The case against his alleged attacker collapsed yesterday. Now Mr Huggins and his partner have

spoken for the first time of the devastating consequences of the attack and their anger that no one has been brought to justice for the crime.

"I can't go out alone. I think all the time that someone might be after me. My life has been ruined by a single punch," said Mr Huggins, from his Byron Road home.

"I try to say something and I get stuck on a word,

like a fit, and I can't speak. I came to Ipswich to make a start for myself. I got in a row. I don't now if I was being loud. So what if I was being loud. I don't deserve that. Nobody deserves that."

A thick scar reaches across Mr Huggins' head touching his ears of either side – the result of a life saving operation at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge to remove the front part of his skull and allow his beaten brain to swell. He spent one month relearning how to walk, talk and feed himself and is still on medication to control his fits – but the crippling effects of the critical head injuries he sustained go far deeper, said Miss Pulham.

"You look at him and he looks like Huggy but it's not him. He's like a nasty

brother. His personality has gone," she said.

"Before the fight he was so loving and caring. The children would always come first. Now he has changed totally. There are times when I can't even explain how it feels to see him. Sometimes I go mad at him but I love him so much I just want him to get better and for us to lead a normal life."

Mr Huggins has four children. Jan-ee, two, Marcius, 11-months, and Kaine, 7, and Alyce, four, from a previous relationship. And it is the youngsters who often feel the effect of their father's frayed nerves, said Miss Pulham.

"Jan-ee is just a typical two-and-a-half-year-old and he just can't handle it. She loves him so much and it hurts me when I see him push her away. I know he loves the children still but it's like he's got no emotions left. He used to call her 'China' all the time before but he never uses that word now."

Mr Huggins has no memory of the events of August 15 when he and his nephew Liam Dore went out for the night together at Brannigans nightclub. According to Mr Dore however his uncle had drunk up to five pints by closing time up and then set off in the direction of Liquid nightclub with four or five others.

But after five minutes a fight broke out. Mr Huggins was knocked out by a single punch.

It wasn't until later the next day that Miss Pulham, who had given birth to Marcius just two weeks before, was alerted by her partner's incoherent state and called for an ambulance.

Today he attends rehabilitation classes at Ipswich Hospital, St Clement's and the Icanho centre in Stowmarket. "They said his mood swings and personality change was all part of the injury. I just keep reading the books and hoping things will get better. They said we had about two years and after that he probably wouldn't recover any more.

"He came on leaps and bounds at first but now he seems to have levelled off."

The case against Ryan Walton, 23, of Turkentine Close, Great Cornard, was dropped yesterday at Bury Crown Court.

He was acquitted of the charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Huggins after a judge directed the jury to acquit after the Crown reviewed their case and decided not offer further evidence.

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