A distraught Fleet mum has spoken of the moment she first saw the blooded face of her 12-year-old autistic son who was attacked while out exercising the family dogs.
Miranda Playford was visiting her sick grandfather in hospital on Sunday afternoon when she got the call about the attack along a popular countryside track for walkers near woodland off Lowgate.
She said her son, who is not being named to protect his identity, had been exercising two 20-month-old Springer spaniels when a tall black man came out of the woodland and “smacked him across the mouth with a tree branch, demanding money or drugs”.
Mrs Playford said: “I rushed home and it was such a shock to see him covered in blood and his mouth swollen.
“One of the dogs had tried to protect my son by pulling at the man’s trouser leg.
“My son said he thought the man had been drinking because he was wobbly on his feet and when he pushed him away he fell over. It was then my son was able to grab the dogs and run home.”
Mrs Playford said her son, who also suffers from ADHD, had been affected emotionally by the attack: “He was really brave and did so well to run home, but it’s really shaken him up and he hasn’t been out with the dogs since.
“Normally he takes the dogs out with his younger brother, but he was sick that day.
“My son is home schooled because he doesn’t cope with large numbers of people well. It took a long time for us to build his confidence up so he could take the dogs out.
“Living in the country we thought it was something he could do safely. You don’t expect anything like this to happen in a nice area.
“He’s been walking them every day – sometimes twice. Now we will have to build up his confidence all over again.”
Police enquiries into the unprovoked attack are ongoing and Mrs Playford is appealing to other dog walkers to be vigilant until the attacker is caught.
She said: “I never imagined anything like this could happen here. Other people should be warned to take care until the man is caught. Another child might not be so lucky.”
The attacker is described as aged about 35, 6ft tall, broad build and with a shaved head, wearing a yellow T-shirt with blue stripes and jeans.
Anyone with information is asked to call PC Steve Wells on 101, quoting incident number 306 of March 2. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.