Vincent Uzomah: Teacher stabbed by pupil in racist attack praised after forgiving his attacker

Vincent Uzomah saw the 14-year-old boy given an extended sentence – but the teenager could be released after just three years

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The Independent Online

A teacher who was stabbed in the stomach in a pre-planned racist attack by one of his pupils has been praised by police after forgiving his attacker.

Vincent Uzomah saw the 14-year-old boy given an extended sentence – but the teenager could be released after just three years.

The schoolboy had muttered the ‘n’ word before stabbing Mr Uzomah, and garnered 69 likes on his Facebook  profile for his “bragging”  status update about the  incident at Dixons Kings Academy in Bradford, south Yorkshire. “The motherfucker getin funny so I stick the blade straight in his tummy,” it read.

Yet outside Bradford Crown Court yesterday, the 50-year-old teacher said: “As a Christian I have forgiven this boy who has inflicted this trauma and pain on me and my family. Our prayer for him is that he will make use of the opportunities and support that will be provided to him to become a changed person who will make a positive contribution to the society.”

The court heard that the “dangerous young offender”, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had brought a knife to school on 11 June with the express reason of using it on Mr Uzomah, a supply teacher who had been working at the school for seven weeks.

Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, said the teenager was “disruptive and a bully” who at 14 was already using cannabis. The boy, of Pakistani origin, resented being told off by the Nigerian-born teacher, he added.

“He did not show any especial hostility to other teachers. Mr Uzomah, however, is black,” said Mr Sharp.

“The defendant disliked him, claiming he couldn’t teach, and freely referred to him by the epithet beginning with the letter ‘n’, including saying it in anger just before he attacked him.

“The Crown’s case in consequence is that the attack  was, at least in part, racially motivated,” he added.

The boy had already been heard telling friends that he planned to stab a teacher. And after being reminded of the school’s rules about mobile phones, the boy began “getting angry, red in the face and putting his head down and muttering the words ‘bastard’ and ‘nigger’”.

He approached Mr Uzomah saying “you can have my phone”, Mr Sharp said, “and reached into his pocket but at that point he took out the knife and stabbed Mr Uzomah in the stomach”.

The teacher was taken to hospital for treatment on injuries to his stomach and bowel, fearing that he would die.

Meanwhile the boy fled from the school and posted his online message bragging about what he had done 20 minutes later. He was arrested in  Bradford city centre six hours later, but the phone and the weapon – which police believe was a kitchen knife – were never found.

He refused to answer police questions, but gave a statement that said: “I am really sorry for stabbing my teacher. I do not know what is wrong with me. I do know I did not intend to kill him. I want to say sorry to Mr Uzomah and I hope he is feeling better soon.”

The teenager admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent. However, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC rejected the boy’s explanation to psychiatrists that he stabbed Mr Uzomah because he was hearing voices.

“What you did to Vincent Uzomah was of such shocking seriousness that this man sitting in court, a God-fearing gentleman, first of all thought he was going to die,” the judge told the boy. “You have, by your actions, changed his life.”

“You went to your school armed with a knife with a  significant blade intending, when the opportunity presented, to stab your teacher Vincent Uzomah. You boasted about it before, you boasted about it after when you had stabbed him.”

He told the boy that he “stabbed him deliberately then gloated in the presence of your classmates”.

“Suggestions you were calling him a nigger and the inference I must draw is that was a factor. You could not tolerate being told off by this gentleman of this background.”

He added: “It’s an appalling reflection on a small microcosm of our society that within minutes or hours after posting, 69 people ‘liked’. How sick.”

The judge rejected an application for the youth’s identity to be made public, saying the 14-year-old’s “welfare must come first and the public interest must give way”.

The teenager – who has previous convictions for attempted robbery and common assault, and was on bail for an offence of burglary at the time of the attack – yawned and folded his arms as the judge passed sentence. Given an 11-year extended sentence, consisting of six years in custody and a further five years on licence, the boy could be released on parole after only three years.

Mr Uzomah said that the “unfortunate” incident had occured while he was “delivering my duty in a profession I loved”.

“The impact of this attack has left psychological scars on my life and the life of my family,” he said. “It’s unclear when I will be fit to return to work. Because of the emotional impact, I feel this may take some considerable time.”

Not only had the attack hit his own confidence, but it had also left him concerned for the safety of his wife, Uduak, who is also a teacher. He thanked God that he was alive and added that it was “important for the law to run its course and for a strong message to be sent out, especially to kids of similar tendencies, that violence is not acceptable”.

The attack came a little over a year after another teacher, Ann Maguire, was stabbed to death while teaching at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds.

Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police, said it was particularly “shocking and very serious” because the teenager had shown no concern for Mr Uzomah by fleeing the scene and displayed a worrying lack of remorse. He described Mr Uzomah as being “incredibly magnanimous towards his attacker”.