A LOCAL volunteer is being praised as a hero after leaping to the aid of a teenager as he was being assaulted in Stanford-le-Hope, and possibly saving his life.
Nikki Pegrum, who volunteers at the Hardie Park Community Development Centre, stepped in to defend the 16-year-old boy on Monday, 27 March after he was approached by four young men who punched him and stamped on his head next to the centre.
Ms Pegrum said at the time of the incident, between 7pm and 7.20pm, she was on the decking of the centre talking to one of the café customers. After turning around she saw the group punching the victim and immediately leaped to his defence.
Ms Pegrum said: “I saw the boy get punched to the floor and that’s when I went running the whole length of the decking, jumped over the decking and pulled all the boys away.
“It’s still a blur to me now, but I only did it because I felt I had to. I couldn’t let one poor little boy be attacked like that. I’ve hurt my leg jumping over the decking, but just knowing that I’ve saved that boy from even more damage, I’m happy to walk around with that bruise on my thigh. If it had gone on much longer that boy might not be here now.”
Essex Police confirmed the victim suffered cuts and bruises to his head and face and fractures to two of his fingers. The East of England Ambulance Service attended, and a spokesperson said: “An ambulance crew was sent to assist and treated a male patient for a head injury before taking him to hospital for further care.”
Despite the attack, Ms Pegrum assured concerned parents that Hardie Park is still a safe place to bring their kids, but backed growing calls for more police needed in the area.
She added: “People say bad things about Hardie Park, but it is a very safe place to be. If the kids ever have any problems they can come and see me and they know that. We can’t let bullies intimidate people.
“But what we really need is more police. Even if me and the other volunteers here just had body-cams that would give us some help because at the moment we can call 999 or 101, but you just get put on hold. It’s not easy to ring straight through to the police.
“We need more police present in the area and a bit more support because they are aware that we do get trouble here, but we want parents to know that this is still a family-friendly park and café where we all look after each other.”
Witnesses or anyone with information are asked to contact DC Marc Makin at Grays CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.