Christmas tragedy: Attack puts 21-year-old in hospital

An attempt to do a good deed left Rotorua’s Ben Osborne in hospital with a severe concussion just days before Christmas.

Father Cam Osborne said his 21-year-old son had attended a work Christmas function with his sister and some friends on Wednesday.

During the night they saw a woman they believed to be homeless, who looked cold and upset, so offered her a jersey.

Osborne said another woman, also believed to be homeless, told the group: “We don’t need your white pākehā help”.

“That caused another homeless gentleman to come flying across the road and start to confront the group. He got right up in one of the guy’s faces and one of my son’s friends pushed him. He came back swinging and punching.

“That caused another group across the road, who had nothing to do with it, to come over and they thought my son’s group were having a go at the homeless people, even though they were trying to help.”

One of the men from that group engaged in an altercation with the youngest of Ben’s group, a 17-year-old, and gave him a black eye and broken nose, Osborne said.

When Ben tried to get between them and break it up, Osborne said the man punched his son about six times.

“Ben’s only a little guy but he’s a peacekeeper, he’s the type who would do anything for anybody.

“We don’t think the man who hit Ben was homeless, we think he thought he was being the hero. It shows how fast things escalate and people get the wrong end of the stick.”

Osborne said his son suffered a severe concussion that left him in Rotorua Hospital for two nights. As a result of the head injury, Ben was vomiting and having seizures, his father said.

His family had been worried he would miss Christmas at home with his loved ones.

Fortunately, his condition had improved enough that he was able to return home from the hospital on Christmas morning.

“That was the best Christmas present you could get,” Osborne said.

“It’s going to be a long road to recovery but there are people worse off than us. We’re blessed that he’s okay.

“It is hard to see [as a dad], a part of me wants to just go and sort this guy out but part of me wants natural justice to take place. I think in this case it’s best we go down that road. The police have some good CCTV footage.”

He urged anyone who saw the altercation or had information about the offender to get in touch with police.

A police media spokesperson said police received a report from a third party on Christmas Eve of an assault that had occurred the night before on Tutanekai St.

One person was sent to hospital but their status was unknown, the spokesperson said.

Inquiries into the incident are ongoing.

Visions of a Helping Hand founder Tiny Deane, who works to help get Rotorua’s homeless off the street, said first and foremost it was “really, really sad” to hear about what happened to Ben and he wished him a speedy recovery.

Deane said while he could not say whether or not some of those involved in the altercation were homeless, and that it was certainly possible they were, it was also important not to make assumptions.

Homeless or not, he encouraged anyone who saw anything on the night of the assault to get in touch with police.

Deane said he has several initiatives planned for 2021 to continue getting Rotorua’s homeless off the streets and into housing.

Anyone who saw the incident on Wednesday, December 23 or has information about it can call police on 105 and quote file number 201224/4641.

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