Irishman remains in critical condition after vicious and random assault near Anfield, suspects held
THESE were the chaotic scenes outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium where an Irishman was left fighting for his life after being targeted in a vicious and random assault.
Sean Cox, a 53-year-old dad-of-three from Dunboyne, Co Meath, remained in a critical condition last night in Walton Neurological Centre after sustaining a serious head injury before Liverpool’s Champions League tie with Roma on Tuesday.
His wife, Martina, travelled to Liverpool to be with him, as his grown-up children remained at home awaiting further news.
Mr Cox, who is heavily involved with his local GAA club, St Peter’s, and is well known in Dunboyne, was left fighting for his life following an unprovoked attack at 7.35pm.
Witnesses said a group of about 20 Roma fans with belts attacked random Liverpool supporters outside the Albert pub – a well-known watering hole beside the stadium.
Sean’s brother was with him at the time of the attack and was trying to help him on the ground.
Merseyside Police arrested two men, aged 29 and 20, from Rome on suspicion of attempted murder following a major police operation and they remained in custody last night.
Witnesses said that Sean may have been singled out as he was middle-aged, and not part of a larger group. Local sources said the hooligans made their way up Venmore Street, which is opposite The Albert but comes to it at an angle. Because of its position, Liverpool fans outside The Albert would not have seen the Roma fans until they were practically standing in front of them.
Sean, who was minding his own business along with his brother, happened to be one of the first Liverpool fans that came into sight of the Roma fans.
In one shocking scene in footage of the attack, one assailant can be seen attacking a man attempting to help Mr Cox as he lies injured on the ground, while another man is viciously set upon by a number of thugs.
One Irish Liverpool supporter, who now lives in the city, told how he was in the area on Tuesday night when the violence flared.
“I didn’t have a ticket for the match, but I went down to watch it in a local pub. There was a good atmosphere, and we were approaching the ground when all of a sudden we saw fans running back towards us,”
Cillín Morgan (22), originally from Co Down, said.
“Normally there’s never any trouble, and Liverpool fans will mix well with visiting teams, so I knew there was something wrong.
“The police waded in and started pulling out the Roma guys. They had their flick sticks out and they were pulling them away and keeping them separated from the Liverpool fans.
They were very organised about it.
They did a good job pulling the Roma guys away,” he added.
“One guy told me he saw the Roma guys with hammers and knives. I couldn’t believe it. Later when we were coming back we could see the scene was sealed off and there were police vans and a lot of officers on the road. We knew it was bad,” Cillín said.
“Then the news started to come through that a fan had been attacked.
At first the reports said he was dead, which was shocking.
Then we heard he was critical in hospital and an Irishman. It’s very sad.”
The Liverpool fan’s alleged assailants were among a total of nine men, aged between 20 and 43, who were arrested for various offences before and after the match.
The offences included affray, assault, possession of offensive weapons, possession of a controlled drug, criminal damage and being drunk and disorderly.
Liverpool FC said it was “shocked and appalled” by the incident and urged fans and those who attended the game to help Merseyside Police with their appeal for information.
“The club’s first priority is the safety of all fans attending matches,” the statement said. “Supporters attending a game should never be subjected to an environment of violence or attack.”
It has been reported that the Liverpool squad have sourced a Dunboyne GAA jersey – Sean’s local team – to hang in their dressing room during their game with Stoke at the weekend.
Liverpool star Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who was injured in Tuesday’s night’s match said his injury “pales in comparison to how the family of the Liverpool fan badly hurt before last night’s game must be feeling. My thoughts are with him and his loved ones.”
UEFA have condemned the attack, saying they were “deeply shocked by the vile attack that occurred”
Roma also conde mned the “abhorrent behaviour” of a small number of their supporters.
Meanwhile, football fans have come together to raise thousands of euro in less than 24 hours to go towards Mr Cox’s medical costs.
“I had decided to set up this page to help raise funds to cover Sean’s medical expenses and expenses incurred by his family
to help them to stay by his side,” fan Emmet Kavanagh wrote on the Irish Liverpool fans Facebook page.
“I have been in contact with a family member and they are aware that we are raising money.
“Once the money is raised I plan on withdrawing it by cheque/ bank draft and presenting it to either Sean and/or his family,” he said.
A GoFundMe and a JustGiving page have also been set up and last night raised over €17,000 between them.