News

Benalla pensioner attacked for not wearing a mask

By Simon Ruppert

A Benalla pensioner was left covered in blood after a brazen daylight assault on Friday afternoon because he was not wearing a face mask.

The 75-year-old is now living in fear the attacker might find him and is considering moving to a ‘safer’ town.

The victim, John Partington, confirmed he has a medical exemption from wearing a face mask because of asthma — and despite trying to explain that to his attacker it made no difference.

“I was going into Benalla for half an hour to grab a coffee and the newspaper,” Mr Partington said.

“There was a parking space right outside the newsagent, so I pulled up and cracked the window for my dog.

“I knew I was in trouble after I took two steps. It was the look in the guy’s eyes.

“There was something about him. He came out of the newsagents and stood there blocking the entrance, and the lady he was with went in.

“I just continued walking to the newsagents and had to step around him to get in.

“All of a sudden he barrelled me and said ‘put your bloody mask on'.

“I ignored him and kept going. But I turned around and said ‘listen sunshine wake up to yourself, I'm an asthmatic and I’m exempt from wearing a mask'.”

It was at that point the man started to hurl abuse at Mr Partington.

“He started to get abusive and pushy. I might have pushed back but I'm not fully okay on my feet nowadays because of my age, I'm coming up to 76 in September.

“I told him to leave me alone.

“But he caught me off guard and he went into me. He was throwing punches.

“I fell backwards and when he had finished he said ‘now you’ll put your bloody mask on’.

“What a very big brave man, attacking a 75-year-old.

“It was then that a lady asked if I needed help. I said yes, call the police.”

That woman told the Benalla Ensign on Monday that the attack in Bridge St was "appalling".

“I was peacefully looking for a book inside the door of the newsagents when I heard a noise,” the witness said.

“It was a woman screaming at the top of her voice shouting for someone to stop.”

The woman in question was with the perpetrator and was pleading with him to stop attacking Mr Partington.

“Initially it looked like two men fighting then one of them started really going into the other one, and backed him right up against the seat outside the newsagents,” the witness said.

“The victim went to ground and the attacker didn't stop.

“The lady was screaming at him all the time to leave the old man alone, and eventually the victim managed to resist.”

With that the attacker and the woman disappeared up the laneway near the newsagents towards the Denny St car park.

“The old fella was in shock and had blood pouring down his face,” the witness said.

Mr Partington said he is now considering moving away from Benalla.

“I felt sick,” he said.

“I thought I had a pretty good reputation in Benalla for helping people and being a good bloke.

“I look after the lady next door, cooking for her if she needs it and keeping an eye out for her.

“I'm going to have to ask her if she feels safe in this situation and if moving might be best.

“I had considered moving away from Benalla in the past, but this has made me really think if I need to.

“This has just made me so angry.

“I don't know if he is going to come back for me.

“He was out of control. I would say he has anger issues and is a danger to others.

“I want this to go to court but it leaves me in the situation of reliving the trauma again.

“But he needs to be dealt with.

“He’s a menace to himself, to his partner, to society and needs to be put away.

“If I could give him a message it would be ‘you need help; go and get some help to get over this'.”

The witness said one of the shocking things was that the man and woman, who she described as middle-aged, were well dressed.

“They didn't look like yobbos,” the witness said.

“They looked like normal, middle-aged people to me, but to be honest it happened so quickly I think I'd struggle to identify them if I saw them again.

“He was such an angry man and obviously has a problem.”

Mr Partington said he had a "lovely" visit from two police officers later in the day on Friday.

“The two lady police officers were absolute gems and they gave me a badge to say I have an exemption.

“Which I am wearing now, but I shouldn't need to.”

Benalla police posted to Facebook on Saturday, asking for witnesses, with this statement:

“Benalla police are investigating an assault that occurred on Friday, August 7, 2020 at approximately 1.30 pm.

“The incident occurred in the CBD between the Target store, and the Bendigo Bank.”

If you witnessed the assault or have any information please contact the Benalla police station on 5760 0200 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.