Father 'critical' after gang attack

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A father was critically ill in hospital last night after challenging a gang of youths who threw beer cans through a window at his home.

Paul Brighton, a 44-year-old civil engineer, had his skull fractured after chasing the youths who pelted him with bricks and cans as he was knocked to the ground near his four-bedroom, detached house.

He underwent emergency surgery at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, yesterday to remove particles of skull embedded in his brain.

Mr Brighton and his wife, Susan, 41, were watching television at home last night with their children Gareth, 11, and Christopher, 13, when they heard glass smashing.

Mrs Brighton said: "A beer can had smashed through the bathroom window. The boys had just been in the bath." Mr Brighton was furious, and "did not stop to think", she said. "He flew through the door and I telephoned the police. I went out looking for them and saw Paul being taken into an ambulance."

She said the family had lived in the village of Orton Waterville, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, for 15 years and loved it. "It should be the last place where anything like this could happen. We moved to this house three years ago through Paul's hard work. It seems that just when you have things as you want them, someone is there to try to take it away from you."

Cambridgeshire police said five youths were being questioned about the attack and a robbery earlier at a nearby store.

The private housing estate where the Brightons live is often used as a short-cut by local teenagers, neighbours said. Streetlights have been broken and fences damaged by the youths. One woman, who has lived on the estate for five years, said: "It would be a quiet, pleasant place to live if it wasn't for these paths ... There are always problems at night."

However, Sergeant Kevin Feek, of Cambridgeshire police, insisted Orton Waterville is not a troublespot. "It is a quiet area, so quiet it has many police officers living there," he said.

The attack will fuel the debate about teenage violence sparked by the death of the headmaster Philip Lawrence, who was stabbed by a gang of youths outside his school in west London 10 days ago.