Sunday 27 May 2018

'The only result that matters to us now is that he recovers' - Liverpool captain reacts to assault on Irishman at Anfield

  • Victim has been named as 53-year-old Sean Cox from Dunboyne
  • Mr Cox remains in critical condition after he was assaulted before Liverpool match
  • His wife has travelled to Liverpool to be with him
  • Two men from Rome, aged 20 and 29, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder
  • Liverpool FC say the incident is 'serious and disturbing'
  • 'The only result that matters to us now is that he recovers' - Jordan Henderson
Victim has been named as 53-year-old Sean Cox from Dunboyne (inset)
Victim has been named as 53-year-old Sean Cox from Dunboyne (inset)
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

THE wife of the Sean Cox, the Irish man seriously assaulted outside Anfield, has travelled to Liverpool to be with him, as his grown-up children remain at home awaiting further news.

The 53-year-old father from Dunboyne in Meath remains in a critical condition in Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool following an incident before Liverpool's Champions League tie with Roma on Tuesday evening.

Sean Cox (53) is in a critical condition in Liverpool
Sean Cox (53) is in a critical condition in Liverpool

Mr Cox, who is heavily involved with his local GAA club St Peter's and well known in Dunboyne, was left fighting for his life following an altercation at approximately 7.35pm outside the ground.

It is understood that the attack was unprovoked, with witnesses saying a group of about 20 Roma fans with belts attacked random Liverpool supporters outside the Albert pub - a well-known watering hole immediately beside Anfield.

Witnesses said that the Mr Cox may have been singled out as he was middle-aged, and not part of a larger group.

Merseyside Police have arrested two men from Rome on suspicion of attempted murder.

The pair were arrested after police launched an operation to track down the man's assailants amid scenes of violent disorder ahead of Liverpool's clash with Roma.

In an statement this afternoon, Merseyside police confirmed that a 20-year-old and a 29-year-old remain at a police ststioon where they are being questioned about the incident.

"The Club is aware of an incident involving our club colleague,  Sean Cox, at the Champions League game in Anfield last night," St Peter's GAA club in Dunboyne said in a statement.

"Sean is a long serving and popular member of St Peter's GAA Club in Dunboyne. At this point we hope that Sean is receiving all of the medical care he requires and that he makes a full and speedy recovery.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean and his family, and we hope that they get the privacy and space they need. We will not be making any further statement at this time."

Liverpool Football Club 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.

In a new statement this afternoon, the club called the incident "serious and disturbing".

"Liverpool Football Club will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities to establish an understanding of the facts, following a serious and disturbing incident at Anfield last night which has left a 53-year-old supporter in a critical condition in hospital.

"The club’s first priority is the safety of all fans attending matches.

"Supporters attending a game should never be subjected to an environment of violence or attack.

"Liverpool would like to thank the emergency services and members of its own supporter base who offered care and treatment to the stricken victim in the immediate aftermath."

Club captain Jordan Henderson also spoke of his shock at the incident.

"The thoughts and prayers of all the players are with the Liverpool fan who is currently very poorly in hospital, after being badly hurt ahead of our game last night," Henderson said on social media.

"He came to watch a football match and support our team - the only result that matters to us now is that he recovers and can return home to be with his family and loved ones."

Detective Inspector Paul Speight, said: "We believe the victim was in Liverpool with his brother for the Liverpool v Roma semi-final and was assaulted during an altercation between Roma and Liverpool fans near to the Albert pub at about 7.35pm.

"Witnesses report that the victim was hit with a belt and then fell to the ground.

A view of The Albert pub on Walton Breck Road after the UEFA Champions League, Semi Final First Leg match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
A view of The Albert pub on Walton Breck Road after the UEFA Champions League, Semi Final First Leg match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

"Paramedics treated him at the scene and he was taken by ambulance to Walton Neurological Centre, where he is being treated for a head injury. His condition is currently described as critical and his next of kin have been informed."

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.

A witness at the scene said the attack appeared to be "coordinated" and described it as "quite horrible".

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft said he was on his way to the press entrance at the Kop end of the stadium when he saw the assault.

"It was pretty horrible stuff. I was after arriving at the ground at the Kop end, where the press entrance is," Mr Northcroft said.

"Anyone who knows Anfield knows there is a pub there on the corner called the Albert.

"I was walking past there into the ground through the gates, and I could see a group of Italian lads coming down the street by Anfield.

"It just didn't look right so I looked back around, they had run into the middle of the road and were chanting at local fans," he continued.

"It seemed like they wanted to make a show, a couple of guys shouted back and that was enough for an attack.

"They just had belts in their hands. They moved in on the Liverpool fans outside the Albert.

"It was quite coordinated and quite horrible really."

Mr Northcroft said the attack was over "really, really quickly".

"The poor fella was attacked, he was one of the older Liverpool fans outside the Albert, which is quite a sedate pub really," he continued.

"It was over really, really quickly. There was a lot of police in the area but they weren't on the scene at all.

"By the time anyone reacted, these Roma fans were running off and the guy was lying in the middle of the road.

"He was part of a group of fans outside the pub. He was, I guess, there were two or three of them but he was the one who got the brunt of it.

"It looked to me like they wanted to make a quick attack and get out of there.

"He was a soft target. He was in the middle of the street. He was out out cold.

"I was out twenty yards away, I went back to see what had happened.

"He was absolutely out cold. Lots of people around him were very concerned.

"The police came around and you could see they were concerned. They cordoned the area off and waited for the ambulance to come," he added.

Another witness Patrick Gaskin told Joe Duffy on RTE's Liveline that he was in the area when the attack happened.

"I saw the lad on the ground and the Roma fans had run away at this stage. It wasn't what you expect at a football match.

"There was a young lad who recorded everything on his phone so he was able to show the paramedics what happened when they arrived."

Patrick said that Sean's brother was with him at the time of the attack and was trying to help him on the ground.

"We heard the Irish accents so we went over to see if they were alright. The brother was very distraught. Myself and my friend were making sure he was ok while the police attended to Sean on the ground."

Investigation

Detectives are also investigating the use of flares outside the ground, the force said.

Merseyside Police Chief Superintendent Dave Charnock, said "a number of those in the crowd that had gathered to greet the Liverpool team coach were in possession of flares and work is ongoing to identify those responsible".

He added: "The vast majority of the 52,500 fans attending the game were well behaved and went to watch a good game of football.

"However, a minority of fans from both Liverpool and Roma were involved in isolated pockets of disorder in the city centre and near to the ground."

AS Roma has also released a statement on Wednesday.

"AS Roma condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent behavior of a small minority of traveling fans who brought shame on the club and the vast majority of Roma’s well-behaved supporters at Anfield," it reads.

"There is no place for this type of vile behavior in football and the club is now cooperating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA and the authorities. The club’s thoughts and prayers are with the 53-year-old Liverpool fan in hospital and his family at this time."

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News