How far do you go in the face of violence?

AT 39, Grahame Simmonds is a pillar of the Southampton suburb of Bitterne. He is 6ft tall, weighs 13st 7oz, earns enough to support his wife and two young sons in a stylish bungalow, runs a J-reg Rover and is a member of the local Conservative club. Last Tuesday, in circumstances that are becoming disturbingly familiar, the pillar was felled.

Just before 5pm he drove to a shopping precinct to buy his wife, Julie, a 14th wedding-anniversary card. The round trip, including the time it took to park and select a card should have taken less than 10 minutes. But when Mr Simmonds started to drive out of the car park, he found his way blocked by three young men. They stared at him and refused to budge. Mr Simmonds opened the car door and stepped out.

'I was about to say, 'What's the problem?' I never got time to get the words out. One of them, a big chap with short, blond hair which was streaked - as though he'd dyed it and the dye was growing out - came forward and hit me. He didn't say anything, but his eyes delivered the message, 'I'll have you]' He hit me so hard I fell down at once. They then started kicking me, though I'm not sure who kicked me where.'

The assailants were white, in their early twenties and not badly dressed. Their jeans and coloured shirts were clean. 'They weren't skinheads or druggies. They seemed . . . ordinary, really.'

He is thrice lucky. For one thing, seeing shoppers draw near, the men bolted. For another, the attack was a few yards from the local health centre, so Mr Simmonds had prompt attention. Lastly, he escaped with his life - unlike other recent victims, among them Les Reed, 45, beaten to death a week ago for challenging youthful vandals in Cardiff, and John Taylor, 48, who died when rampaging youths invaded his family barbecue in Gosport, Hants, last summer.

Mr Simmonds is familiar with the Taylor case. A work colleague was a neighbour of the Gosport victim and had relayed details of the killing, in which Mr Taylor was knocked to the ground after remonstrating with seven drunken youths who had broken his garden fence. Six are free, having served a nine-month jail sentence. The seventh is expected to leave prison in August. Mr Simmonds is bewildered. 'That was murder,' he said. 'There should have been a life sentence.'

He is bewildered also by what he and a large section of the British population see as youthful spurning of all authority. Many of the acts of violence are perpetrated by 'ordinary' youths. In Gosport, for example, last summer's rampaging teenagers were from streets as leafy and well-tended as St Francis Avenue, where Mr Simmonds lives. Their parents and siblings seem genuinely distressed by what had occurred.

Mr Simmonds is a forthright man, but does not look for trouble. As a multiple sclerosis sufferer for the past six years, he takes few risks with his health (he says weekly yoga has kept the disease in remission; he plays cricket for his Conservative club). He and Mrs Simmonds teach seven-year- old Paul and five-year-old Richard the difference between right and wrong. At first he tried to keep the children from seeing his injuries, but gave up on realising they would see him being interviewed on television.

Two evenings after the assault, police drove Mr Simmonds to the shopping precinct and to a housing estate in search of the attackers. He did not see them, but received a different kind of surprise. 'There were these kids, aged five, six, seven. They swarmed around the police car, not in the least bit intimidated, shouting 'Oi] Wot you doin' 'ere?'

'No respect whatever] No trace of fear in their eyes] I was quite shocked, but the police told me they get that attitude all the time from young people.'

Mrs Simmonds said: 'These people use the sob story about being unemployed or about coming from a broken home. But that's no reason to thump Grahame, or kick that other chap to death.'

Might responsibility lie with the Thatcher/Major era? Mr Simmonds tenderly touched his bruised eye. This is a difficult question for a thoughtful Conservative. He said: 'I think we concentrate too much on problems abroad, and, although I feel sorry for children with no food in Africa, the Government should put its own house in order.'

Some believe Mr Simmonds's chosen government has tried to run Britain like a vast business. Henry Ford, who knew about these things, once said: 'A great business is too big to be human.'

Was that the view from a nice bungalow in Southampton? 'Don't get me wrong,' Mr Simmonds said. 'It's tragic what's happening.'

(Photograph omitted)

Opinions, page 20

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing