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Saturday 30 August 2014

Irishwoman tells how ‘king hit’ punch to back of head in Australia changed her life forever

Louise Smith suffered swelling to the brain and her daughter remains in psychiatric care three years later

Published 20/01/2014 | 18:02

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Louise pictured with her three children. Louise tells how an unprovoked attack has changed her family's life forever.
Louise Smith: "I will never be that woman who went to collect her children that day again"

An Irish woman living in Australia has told of how a ‘king hit’ punch has left her and her young family traumatised years later.

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Louise Smith, who has lived in Victoria with her family since 2007, was collecting her three children from a shopping centre one day in September 2011 when a ‘king hit’, an unprovoked single punch to the back of her head, changed her life forever.

Louise suffered swelling to the brain and her daughter, who was 13 at the time, is currently in psychiatric care.

“It was a sunny afternoon, I was walking out of the shopping centre with my three kids, I had my eighteen-month-old son on my hip,” Louise told independent.ie.

“All I remember is a big loud bang to the side of my head.

“My only memory is seeing my seven-year-old daughter screaming in front of me with her hands up on either side of her head. It was this piercing scream that I had never heard before.

“I dropped the baby and I have very little recognition of what happened next.”

Louise’s daughter, who was thirteen at the time of the attack, ran to help her mother but was pushed aside before a separate man ran to pull the attacker from Louise and her family.

“My eldest daughter is currently in a psychiatric unit,” Louise said.

“She is in and out all the time.

“Irish females are so in charge, the rock of the family, and she couldn’t cope at such a vulnerable age to see her mother attacked like that.

“She is very frightened now, she is always scared something like that could happen again.

“Going to the shop or walking to school became unfeasible for my daughter.

“I had to give up my job at the time, but I have recently gone back to college and that has helped a lot.

“But I will never be the woman who got out of the car to collect her children that day again.”

The phenomenon of the single unprovoked punch to the head has claimed 90 lives in the last ten years in Australia, according to the Monash University’s forensic medicine department.

“I have written to my own MP here, I am just appalled by the lack of justice here,” Louise said.

“I have done a lot of research into the attacks here in Australia myself and I have spoken to scores of people who have been in the same situation as us.

“My question is if there have been 90 deaths in the last ten years how many injuries have there been?”

The mum-of-three's story came to light in Ireland after she spoke to Joe Duffy on his RTÉ show Liveline this morning.

On the evening of the attack, Louise gave a statement to the police. The attacker was charged and released before he appeared in court eleven months later.

“The police demanded I give a statement that night, I was interrogated for the night and I was asked constantly if I had provoked this person,” Louise said.

“The man was given a good behaviour bond in court, where the court requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified amount of time.

“I went to the courts myself and got an intervention order which means he cannot come near me or my children again.

“The courts are very lenient here,” Louise continued.

“I would say there is a real macho culture in Australia. Men are king and, although women have rights on paper, they are definitely not as valued as they are in Ireland.

“I’m not surprised that this type of attack is called the ‘king hit’. Men are very macho and they tend to display it as an aggression. The courts are so lenient that this type of behaviour is tolerated.”

A minimum eight years sentence for the violent attack was announced today in New South Wales following criticism that the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was failing to address the alcohol-fuelled violence.

New South Wales has the highest death toll with 28 victims in the last decade.

Recently, the New South Wales government backed calls for ‘king hit’ attacks to instead be referred to as ‘coward punches’.

Galway man Thomas Keaney (23) lost his fight for life after an alleged ‘king hit’ assault outside a kebab shop in Northbridge, Perth, last month.

The young man was standing behind a taxi when he was allegedly struck, which caused him to fall and hit his head off the kerb.

He was taken to hospital where his condition worsened and he lost his life on December 29.

By Denise Calnan

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