Eighteen Punches and Not A Word

Posted on March 16, 2013


Just when I thought Heartless Bystander Stories couldn’t get any worse, I read about the ordeal of Prakash Patel, a bank worker in Manchester. He was travelling home on a tram after watching Manchester United play Fulham at Old Trafford in January. Passengers apparently stood by while the 56 year old was racially abused and punched in the head, 18 times. Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it?

Prakash Patel

I’ve been on that tram on matchday. Much like the tube in London after a game, it would have been packed and boisterous. People would have been crammed into each others’ armpits. How could the passengers around Prakash and his daughter Devyani not have heard the racist abuse or not seen the assault that followed at the hands of 6 or 7 men?

But as you read the details, you realise that of course they saw it. And here’s the disturbing bit. Not only were people not interested in helping. Some appeared to be enjoying it. Free post-match entertainment. No subscription charges. According to Devyani, no-one helped them as the punches flew over the other passengers’ heads, and some even jumped up so they could get a better view. So far, so ‘Black Mirror’.

There may have been some people on that tram that, had they been nearer and seen what was going on, would have stepped in, defused the situation. I’ve seen it done. It’s about judgement, tact, timing. Yes, 6 or 7 men throwing punches sounds like a terrifying situation to get involved in, but there were 3 opportunities where people could have intervened. When Prakash and Devyani were being racially abused. When Prakash was being punched. After the assault. Instead his daughter had to help him off the tram, while people watched. That’s not just fear. That’s shameful.

Devyani says the CCTV footage of passengers staring and trying to get a better view sends a shiver down her spine. For many people reading this, it will also send them on an unwelcome journey back in time. To a time when these kinds of things happened about once a week and you walked home crying, with your cuts and bruises stinging, and the taste of salty tears in the back of your throat.

We’ve all come so far. We’re not going back there.

Posted in: News