Sunday 22 September 2019

'Big-hearted hero' fighting for his life after he tried to stop brawl

Danny Payne's partner was also punched in the face during the assault

Danny Payne and his partner Sarah
Danny Payne and his partner Sarah
Danny Payne and his partner Sarah

Leona O'Neill

The family of a man left in a critical condition after being assaulted as he tried to stop a brawl have described him as "a big-hearted hero" as he continues to fight for his life.

Danny Payne, a father of three in his 30s, was assaulted by a number of men in Newmarket Street in Derry shortly after 2am on Sunday.

His brother-in-law Chris McElwee said the family are 'hoping and praying' that Danny survives, after he suffered serious head injuries in the attack.

Yesterday evening, police said two teenagers had been arrested in connection with the assault.

Last night, Mr Payne remained in a critical condition at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast after undergoing an eight-hour operation to relieve the pressure on his brain. His wife Sarah, who had her retina torn in the attack, was by his bedside.

"Danny was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital on Sunday morning," Chris said. "He had to get emergency brain surgery - have a part of his skull removed - to relieve the pressure. He was eight hours in theatre.

"Doctors have told Sarah that the surgery went well. He is still in an induced coma in Intensive Care."

Chris says that his sister Sarah and Danny had been out celebrating a friend's birthday in the city centre when the assault took place.

"They were going to get a taxi around the corner when Danny had seen two fellas standing arguing and pushing one another," he added.

"He was going over to see if he could stop the scuffling. A man punched Sarah in the face - they tore her retina - and Danny got beaten by two or three men.

"Danny is fighting for his life. We were told at Altnagelvin Hospital that he has serious injuries and that they had done everything they could, to contact his mother and the rest of the family as they didn't know if he was going to make it through or not.

"And we still don't know that he will make it through.

"We are just hoping and praying that he recovers.

"Sarah and Danny have three children aged 13, 10 and three. They know that their daddy is in hospital and he had to go for an operation but don't know how serious it is."

Chris appealed for anyone who saw the incident to contact police.

"This is happening far too often," he added.

"We don't know why it happened. I can't see the people who did this handing themselves in, but if there are any witnesses out there, please come forward and speak to someone.

"Danny is fighting for his life today. He is the type of person who would have been friends with everybody. If you needed help, Danny was there in a second, no matter who you were.

"He was a volunteer in Foyle Search and Rescue and was always doing something for charity.

"He was out every single day searching for young Jack Glenn, who had went into the River Foyle, until he was found.

"He once went in and rescued a man who had jumped into the river over at the railway station, putting his own life at risk.

"Danny could have just left the two fellas fighting to get on with it and walked on past. But Danny is not like that. He is a selfless, big-hearted, good Samaritan, a hero.

"The people who did this to him need to face justice."

Last night, detectives from PSNI's Serious Crime Branch investigating the incident arrested an 18-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man.

They are assisting police with their enquiries.

Earlier, Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell said: "I am appealing directly to a man and a woman who were in the vicinity of the assault to come forward to police as they may be able to assist with the investigation.

"The man was wearing a coat and T-shirt - both dark in colour - and blue jeans while the assault was taking place in Newmarket Street. However, directly following the assault, he was seen walking in William Street not wearing his coat. At this stage a large tattoo was clearly visible on his left forearm.

"The woman has long, dark coloured hair and was wearing blue jeans, brown shoes and a three-quarter length green coat."

Anyone with information on the case can contact detectives at Strand Road on 101 quoting reference 209 22/10/2017.

Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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