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Stabbing horror relived by US tourist

PUBLISHED: 12:59 28 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:00 03 March 2010

AN American tourist who was brutally stabbed with a broken bottle when he asked directions in Ipswich town centre has relived his ordeal.

John Espana, 26, spoke out after returning here for the trial of the two people involved with his attack.

AN American tourist who was brutally stabbed with a broken bottle when he asked directions in Ipswich town centre has relived his ordeal.

John Espana, 26, spoke out after returning here for the trial of the two people involved with his attack.

And he said of 21-year-old Christopher Keogh, the older of the two: "I hope he rots in hell."

Keogh and a 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced charges of wounding Mr Espana with intent in July last year.

Both defendants began the proceedings facing charges of GBH in a trial expected to last three days. But after discussions, Keogh's charge was reduced from wounding with intent to attempted robbery. The youth was convicted of affray and the trial was over in three hours.

In an earlier hearing, the youth, who has been described as troubled, let rip a torrent of abuse telling one member of the bench at South East Suffolk magistrates court in Ipswich: "I am going to rape your f**** mother."

The Evening Star's request to name the youngster – who has already notched up serious convictions including possession of drugs and firearms – was turned down by Bury Crown Court.

The slightly built youngster was handcuffed and guarded by three officers to protect the safety of other people in the courtroom.

The court heard how the troubled teenager, whose father is dead and whose mother suffers from mental problems, had been in and out of care from the age of seven.

During his teenage years, the youth spiraled out of control becoming addicted to hard drugs, including crack.

Their pleas meant the trial, expected to last three days, lasted less than three hours.

The court heard that while the young defendant may have held Mr Espana while he was kicked and punched, there was no evidence to show that he had stabbed his victim.

A third attacker – who allegedly carried out the stabbing – was questioned by police after the attack but not charged due to lack of evidence.

Mr Espana, was not called on to give evidence.

The trial was adjourned for psychiatric reports. Both defendants are due to be sentenced together at Ipswich Crown Court during the week commencing June 17.

After the trial Mr Espana relived his ordeal, touching the six-inch scar on his back and called it "his souvenir from Suffolk".

The 26-year-old stockbroker thought he was going to die alone thousands of miles from his Atlanta home at the time of last July's attack.

He said: "It was like something out of a David Lynch (horror) film. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, not even in the worst parts of Atlanta.

"You certainly don't expect it in England and certainly not in a small town. At home in Atlanta you get to know the no-go areas, but this was the middle of a residential area."

Mr Espana told how Keogh and the youth approached him after he left the Regent theatre at 10.30pm.

He said: "I gave them a couple of cigarettes and thy seemed chatty, even telling me their names, so I asked them for directions to my hotel.

"They walked me to the main street then they wanted me to go down a dark street off the main street.

"Then another kid came literally out of the bushes, I can't say exactly where, out of nowhere – maybe some doorway.

"At that point I thought it was fishy so I tried to back away and get out of this situation as soon as possible."

He metered out harsh criticism for the driver of a passing car which he tried to stop minutes after the attack.

"My hands were cut and bleeding and I must have looked terrified when I banged on the car window, but they just drove off. Thanks to them I could have bled to death."

Unbeknown to his attackers, Mr Espana was carrying £500 in dollars and sterling as well as his return tickets on him.

He went on: "They started kicking and punching me and knocked me to the ground. I screamed but managed to get to my feet and run back towards the road."

But the trio chased the American along Palmerston Road.

""They were right there, in my face, on top of me, still punching me. Now it's all a bit of a blur but at the time it was terrifying."

He broke away from the hoodlums in and carried on running towards the town centre.

Only when he made it as far as The Water Lily pub did Mr Espana realise he had been stabbed in the back.

He said: "There was blood everywhere in the toilets and on the floor. I kept going in and out of consciousness and I thought "Oh my God, I'm in a strange town in a foreign country and I am going to die."

After 48 hours recovering in Ipswich Hospital he was able to identify Keogh and the youth from a police line up.

According to Espana, the youth's hard luck story did not entitle him to a soft ride. He said: "I feel bad for the kid if he's had a tough life.

"We have kids on projects like that at home. But if he got in with a bad lot and drugs were involved then it's his fault. As for Keogh, I hope he rots in hell."


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