Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Jesse Ryder subjected to 'brutal' violence - witness

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Jesse Ryder is fighting for his life in Christchurch Hospital after a vicious attack. File photo / Dean Purcell.
Jesse Ryder is fighting for his life in Christchurch Hospital after a vicious attack. File photo / Dean Purcell.

Cricket star Jesse Ryder was brutally attacked twice and is now fighting for his life in hospital, police said today.

Witnesses have told of hearing "sickening'' blows to the sportsman's body as he lay on the ground.

The troubled sportsman had been enjoying a quiet "few drinks'' with Wellington Firebirds teammates last night.

When he went to leave Aikman's Bar, in Merivale, at around 12.30am he was attacked by "at least two'' men, police said at a packed media conference this afternoon.

The burly cricketer crossed the road to follow Firebirds teammates who'd gone to McDonalds.

But two men followed him, and one has viciously assaulted him again.

HR manager Emma-Louise Ferguson saw the attack and said it was unbelievable "brutal'' violence.

"Just around 12.30am, I look up and three or four guys were attacking Jesse. There didn't seem to be any argument or anything. They were just punching him, they had him on the ground and they were kicking him hard. It was unbelievably brutal. It was literally right outside the door of the bar.

"When he was on the ground, I couldn't actually see him but I could hear the they were kicking him as hard as they could. I know about impact, I've seen fights and been in (charity boxing) fights and this was sickening. I can't understand what could have caused them to attack him in such a way,'' she said.

Aikmans Bar general manager Steve Holmes also revealed that the mother of one of the men who attacked Ryder was there when it happened.

Mr Holmes said the attackers tried to get back into the bar after the assault but were blocked by bar staff.

The mother of one of the men then began arguing for them to be allowed back in before they all left.

Now, Ryder's mum and agent Aaron Klee have flown to be with him as he lies with a fractured skull and punctured lung in an induced coma in a critical condition.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer said Ryder was being assessed for a number of injuries which police were not prepared to discuss further.

The bar has handed over to police security camera footage of the attack and they were now trying to work out who the assailants were.

The four men ran off when emergency services were called.

Police say they'd interviewed several people and were following several positive lines of inquiry.

Mr Archer asked those behind the attack to come forward, adding: "We will be looking for them.''

He wanted to speak to Wellington players to see if they could add anything to their inquiry. One player had been interviewed already.

Mr Archer didn't know what caused the attack.

Heath Mills of New Zealand Cricket Players Association said he was aware that Ryder had drunk alcohol in recent weeks and was working with him.

He confirmed that Ryder had been having "a few drinks with his teammates at conclusion of season''.

But he stressed the assault was "not an alcohol fuelled incident''.

Mills said there had been a support programme around Ryder after his "well-documented'' issues with well-qualified medical people.

Mills confirmed he was aware Ryder had "drunk some alcohol'' in recent weeks.

Because of that they had tried "to reinvigorate that support that we've got around him''.

"We all know Jesse's struggle with some demons,'' he said.

Mr Holmes confirmed Ryder had been at the bar with Wellington Firebirds teammates last night.

He said the incident started outside the bar and claimed that the mother of one of the men who attacked Ryder was there when it happened.

Mr Holmes wished Ryder all the best and hoped police would quickly track down his attackers.

It was a typical, quiet Wednesday night and no bouncers were on the door.

Blood could be seen on the footpath directly outside the entrance to the bar and a long trail led to a Mcdonald's carpark.

Prime Minister John Key described the attack as "extremely vicious'' and wished Ryder a speedy recovery.

Wellington Firebirds players were in a sombre mood at Christchurch International Airport as they flew home this morning.

Blackcap and senior squad member Grant Elliott said they were all waiting for some good news.

"It's not great, is it?'' he said.

"But we don't know how serious it is. We're not too sure what's happening - it's all pretty confidential at the hospital. We're all just hoping for the best.''

Elliott would not say who was out with Ryder or comment any further.

Crusaders player Zac Guildford was one of thousands of New Zealanders, including sports people from around the world who sent their support to Ryder today.

He tweeted: "Thoughts and prayers with @DijaRyder much love''.

Ally Green was drinking at Aikmans Bar from 6pm to 11.30pm yesterday.

She said a group of six or seven young guys were in the bar wearing Wellington colours.

They were all drinking but they were quiet, and did not seem drunk.

"Everyone was in a good mood,'' Ms Green said.

"No one seemed out of control. It was that group and us, the rest were all older.''

She left in a taxi about 11.30pm and there was nothing out of the ordinary.

"I kinda wish I stayed now.''

Ryder was in Christchurch playing for Wellington in the major preliminary final against Canterbury at Hagley Oval yesterday, which Wellington lost by 61 runs.

Ryder was dismissed for a golden duck during Wellington's unsuccessful run chase.

He had been due to depart New Zealand next week to join the Delhi Daredevils for this year's edition of the Indian Premier League where he was bought by the franchise for $USD260,000 (NZD310,577) in February's player auction.

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