A schoolboy today spoke of the terrifying moment he thought he would die when he was attacked by a yob who tried to throw him 50 feet off a bridge above a busy Wearside road.
Dean Smurthwaite, 14, was heading back to his Houghton home after spending time with friends when the unprovoked attack took place.
After Dean and a friend were confronted by two boys of similar age on a bridge leading from Church Street to Hall Lane above the A690, one of the attackers rammed his bike into Dean before biting him, trying to strangle him and then smashing his head off a bridge barrier.
The attacker then tried to lift Dean over the bridge above six lanes of traffic where he could have fallen to his death.
Thankfully, he managed to get away from the pair and ran to Houghton town centre, where a group of friends were, before his parents Judith and David rushed to take him to hospital for treatment.
Judith has described what happened to her son as “attempted murder”.
Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident and inquiries are ongoing.
Explaining what happened in the shocking incident, Dean, a pupil at Kepier Academy, told the Echo: “Me and my friend were carrying on as we walked over the bridge when one of these lads asked if we were talking about them.
“We said ‘no’, but then they were saying stuff like ‘you are being cheeky’.
“Then one of them went ‘I’ll smash this bike over your head’.
“He rammed the bike into my leg and told my friend to run away before grabbing me with both hands and he tried to strangle me.
“Then he hit me in the ribs and kneed me before he started lifting my leg, so I had to hold on to the railing to stop myself going over.
“I managed to get myself down and that’s when he grabbed my shoulder and started biting my in the back.”
At this point Dean, who is captain of Houghton Albion and a former ball boy for Sunderland AFC, managed to get away and ran towards The Broadway in Houghton.
There, friends stayed with him before self-employed Judith, 40, and David, 44, who works in manufacturing, got to him and took to University Hospital of North Durham, where a gaping head wound he suffered was glued.
He has since been put on antibiotics and is recovering well at home.
Judith said: “When we got to Dean he was just in total shock.
“He didn’t seem to realise that it had happened.
“It was only when we got to hospital that he told me the full extent of the attack.
“He turned to me and said ‘I could have died tonight’.”
The family are now hoping those responsible are brought to justice.
“In my eyes what happened is attempted murder,” said Judith. “It is not normal behaviour for someone to do this and these lads need to be taught that this is not acceptable.
“He could’ve fallen into six lanes of traffic and it doesn’t bear thinking about.
“The fact that it has happened to Dean is so unexpected because he’s a good, hardworking lad who isn’t the type to knock around on street corners or get into trouble.”
Judith, who is also child welfare officer for Dean’s football team, made the decision to post pictures of Dean’s injuries on Facebook the day after the attack as a way of letting family and friends know he was ok following the ordeal.
“We’ve had a huge reaction to it,” said Judith.
“As soon as it went on we were getting messages of support.
“As a family we are overwhelmed and can’t thank people enough.
“We’ve also thanked Dean’s friends who stayed with him when he got to Houghton after he was hurt, because they will have been scared as well.”
Judith also spoke of the worry that she and David now have about Dean being out with his friends.
“I don’t think I will ever get over being anxious about him being out from now on, but for Dean’s sake, he’s got a lot of life to live and needs to feel comfortable going out and doing things that he always has done in his home town.
“Houghton is not a bad area and this has been a one-off as far as we are concerned.
“But parents should be careful and tell their kids to be vigilant about things when they are out.”
The incident happened just before 10pm on Saturday, August 19.
Anyone with information regarding what happened is asked to contact 101 quoting log 1231 190817 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.