Merseyside Police are hoping Liverpool supporters on their way to the club’s Champions League tie with Roma will come forward with footage and eyewitness accounts of an attack which left a Co Meath father in a critical condition.
The authorities yesterday made the appeal, as the wife of Sean Cox, 53, from Dunboyne, flew to England to be at his bedside at Walton Neurological Centre.
Police said two men, aged 25 and 26, from Rome, were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Mr Cox suffered head injuries, having been attacked outside the Albert pub, next to Liverpool’s Anfield ground, at around 7.35pm on Tuesday.
“Witnesses report that the victim was hit with a belt and then fell to the ground,” Detective Inspector Paul Speight said. “Paramedics treated him at the scene and he was taken by ambulance to Walton Neurological Centre, where he is being treated for a head injury. His condition is currently described as critical
“The place where this incident occurred is right by the ground and was heaving with fans, making their way to the game. I would appeal to anyone who has any information, or mobile phone footage of the incident, to contact us urgently, as the information they have could be vital to our investigation.”
Jonathan Northcroft, football correspondent with The Sunday Times, witnessed the attack and said he saw a group of Italians chanting at Liverpool fans outside Anfield.
“It seemed like they wanted to make a show of doing something outside the Kop. A couple of guys shouted back and that was enough for an attack,” Mr Northcroft told Sean O’Rourke, on RTÉ Radio 1. “They just had belts in their hands. They moved in on the Liverpool fans, who were outside the Albert.
“It was pretty sudden and pretty quick and co-ordinated and horrible.
“They picked on a couple of soft targets. The poor fella that was attacked was just one of a couple of older Liverpool fans outside the Albert. It’s quite a sedate pub, really. Maybe they knew there was going to be an easy target there.
“It was over really quickly. There was a lot of police in the area, but they weren’t on the scene at all, because by the time anyone reacted, these Roma fans were running off and the guy was left in the middle of the road.
“It looked to me like they wanted to make a quick attack and get out of there.
“He was absolutely out [cold]. Lots of people around him were very concerned,” he said.
Both clubs involved in Tuesday’s match have issued statements on the attack, with Liverpool saying it is “shocked and appalled”.
“Our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the victim and his family, at this very traumatic time. We will be offering them our full support.
“Liverpool Football Club will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities to establish an understanding of the facts,” it said.
“The club’s first priority is the safety of all fans attending matches.
“Supporters attending a game should never be subjected to an environment of violence or attack.”
AS Roma said it “condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the abhorrent behaviour of a small minority of travelling fans, who brought shame on the club and the vast majority of Roma’s well-behaved supporters”.
“There is no place for this type of vile behaviour in football and the club is now co-operating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA, and the authorities.
“The club’s thoughts and prayers are with the 53-year-old Liverpool fan in hospital, and his family, at this time,” it said.
Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, took to social media to say that the thoughts and prayers of all the players were with Mr Cox and his family.
“He came to watch a football match and support our team. The only result that matters to us now is that he recovers and can return home to be with his family and loved ones.”
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