COULD you live with yourself if you killed or seriously injured someone on a night out?
That’s the reality for more than 130 people across the Dyfed-Powys Police area, whose Christmas drinks led to a serious assault last year.
The force has today launched a campaign highlighting the personal cost of violent behaviour – to the victims, their families, and the offenders themselves – as it works to reverse the increasing trend of alcohol-related assaults.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Phil Rowe said: “Violence against the person has been on the rise year-on-year since 2015, and our figures show that a large proportion of assaults are alcohol-related.
“With more people out enjoying the festive season in December and January, we see a dramatic rise in assaults at this time of year.
“This is not something we believe is unique to Dyfed-Powys, but it is something we are working very hard to combat.”
Each year since 2015, Dyfed-Powys Police has recorded an average of 87 alcohol-related serious assaults over the three-week peak Christmas and New Year season.
This figure rises to 120 when the timeframe is widened to include the whole month of December.
“It’s undeniable that the number of violent incidents has a huge impact on police resources,” T/DCI Rowe said.
“But more importantly, each of these assaults affects people’s lives.
“There are victims who remain in hospital months after being assaulted, and others who every day have to live with ongoing effects of the injuries they sustained.
“Then there are their partners, parents, children and friends, who suffer the burden of worry while they recover – or worse, who might now be preparing for another Christmas without their loved one.”
Of all the assaults recorded by Dyfed-Powys, one-fifth are marked as alcohol-related. While this is already higher than average for all crime types, investigators believe the proportion of incidents where alcohol is a factor could be even greater.
As part of the force’s Christmas campaign – Just Walk Away – T/DCI Rowe is urging people to think before they act on a night out.
“The consequence of assaulting someone is life-changing,” he said. “Could you live with going to prison, spending Christmas in custody, and the emotional weight of knowing your actions seriously injured or even killed someone?
“If you get into a confrontational situation on a night out, please be the bigger person and just walk away.”
My husband’s death after an assault turned our lives upside down
THIS time two years ago, Christine and Vaughan Edwards’ home was beautifully decorated for the festivities.
There was a Christmas tree in every room, twinkling lights, and Vaughan’s quirky Bing Crosby ornament had pride of place in the kitchen.
The couple were looking forward to hosting a Christmas Eve meal, meticulously planned by Vaughan, and celebrating the big day with their children and grandson.
But in the most tragic circumstances, the family spent Christmas Day in hospital, where Vaughan lay on life support after an unprovoked attack on a night out in Llanelli.
He tragically died on January 17, 2018, and his family are now facing the prospect of their second Christmas without their much-loved ‘gentle giant’.
Speaking as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Just Walk Away campaign, which aims to tackle the rising issue of alcohol-related assaults, Christine has opened up publicly for the first time about the devastating effect a single punch had on her family.
She said: “Christmas will never be the same – nothing ever will. What I’ve had to go through, with grieving, the court case, and taking on the business, has been too much to deal with. If he was still here, I wouldn’t have gone through any of this.
“Every Christmas there will be a dark cloud over us. My children have lost a father, our grandson – who Vaughan absolutely doted on – has been affected, and I’ve been left alone at the age of 57. It’s not right, and life shouldn’t have been this way.
“We had everything set in place to live a wonderful life together, but it was all taken away in an instant.”
The couple were out on their annual work’s Christmas party on December 23, 2017 – also Vaughan’s birthday – with employees from the family business. They had ended up in Llanelli’s Vista Lounge, and were about to head home when Vaughan was assaulted.
Christine described seeing her husband fall to the ground, and instantly feared for the worst when he didn’t get back up.
“It was horrendous,” she said. “He went down and he wasn’t getting up. I told my daughter Emma ‘he’s gone’ – I just knew it. He was a 6ft tall, strong man, and he was just lying there. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
“They were doing CPR on him, and he was taken to Morriston Hospital. In the ambulance he was responding, so we thought he might be ok, but then they told us they were blue lighting him to the Heath in Cardiff.”
When she should have been helping her husband cook a Christmas Eve meal, Christine was being interviewed by police officers in hospital, while Vaughan was treated for head injuries. It was a stark contrast to the Christmas the family had planned.
“Every Christmas had a theme and he’d gone all out to make sure we had everything for a perfect day,” Christine said.
“He was going to cook a big meal on Christmas Eve, and had written the menu up on a board in the kitchen – we couldn’t bring ourselves to wipe it off for ages after. The cake he had made is still in the freezer – it doesn’t feel right to get rid of it.
“To anyone else, the house still looked as if we were celebrating Christmas as normal, but we were living a nightmare.”
Christmas Eve was spent saying goodbye to Vaughan, as doctors feared he wouldn’t make it through the night. But he kept fighting, eventually losing his battle on January 17.
“Selfishly, I wanted him to come home,” Christine said. “Even with brain injuries or disabilities, I just wanted him home. I told the hospital staff I would make space for a bed in the living room, I was in contact with a brain injury unit – I just wanted him to come home to us.
“I know now Vaughan would have hated it. He wouldn’t have been happy having to be looked after, but at the time I just wanted him with us.
“I had gone for a night out with my husband and didn’t get to go home with him – I didn’t know where I was. I wasn’t thinking rationally – I was just existing.”
Just days after Vaughan’s death, Christine was thrown into taking over the family business, which Vaughan had run meticulously.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “Vaughan’s life support was switched off on the Tuesday, and I was doing the company wages on the Friday. I didn’t have time to process what was happening – if I didn’t do the wages, nobody got paid.
“People don’t see this side of it when they read about an assault or see it on the news. You don’t have time to grieve properly, somehow you have to get on with life. It’s about survival.
“At times I wonder how the hell I’m still here and functioning.”
Looking forward, Christine has decisions to make about the business, her family home, and a long battle with grief. But she has a clear vision of how she would like her husband to be remembered.
“He was a businessman, a gentle giant and a true family man,” she said. “He brought up my children Emma and Ben as his own, and he absolutely doted on his eldest grandson. He will never get to meet his youngest grandson, and that is heart-breaking.
“I want people to know what a good person he was. Our world has been turned upside down.
“We loved to travel together. We went to Cyprus twice a year, we went to New York, on a river cruise, and he loved shows so we would go to London for weekends. We had a lovely life together.
“His favourite film was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, which we watched together a few weeks before it happened. On the back of his gravestone I had engraved ‘It was a wonderful life’, because life really was wonderful with him in it.”