Bashed but not beaten

By Kristin Edge

12 comments
STILL SMILING: Glenn Houlahan hasn't let an attack on him cloud his positive outlook. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
STILL SMILING: Glenn Houlahan hasn't let an attack on him cloud his positive outlook. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

Glenn Houlahan has been walking to work for the past 14 years on Whangarei's streets.

The 70-year-old reckons it's good fitness and helps the environment with fewer petrol emissions.

On Tuesday morning at 3.45am he was attacked by two men on Rust Ave.

He was punched at least five times in the face. Blood gushing from his nose, he was dragged on the ground.

Clinging to his backpack, he was determined to not let go of his personal possessions. But eventually, knees raw and bleeding, he relinquished the pack.

"I did the best I could to protect myself but there were two attacking me.

"There was nothing of value to them in my backpack. There were note books, a wallet with no money, a eftpos card, my gold card and some notes for my computer course. Oh and two library books I was going to drop off."

Mr Houlahan was bound for an early morning shift at the Whangarei Aquatic Centre and had to have the pool ready to open at 6am.

"I was five minutes into my journey and I was attacked outside Burger King".

He had noticed two men on the other side of the road, and when they called out to him, he kept walking.

They ran across the road and stopped Mr Houlahan, asking him where he was going and demanding he give them his backpack.

He tried to keep walking but one of them grabbed his bag.

"The next thing I had a fist right in the face. Then the second one got me on the forehead. I got a bit dazed."

The two men ran off. Mr Houlahan staggered to his feet and carried on along Rust Av thinking he would continue to the Whangarei police station. On his way he came across four other men, one of whom called police on his mobile phone.

Officers were quick on the scene as were St John Ambulance staff. Police identified a house where they thought the men had gone to and arrested a 19-year-old. On Thursday police arrested a second man aged 20. He will appear in the Whangarei District Court today charged with aggravated robbery.

Mr Houlahan had nothing but praise for the response and help by police officers, saying a female detective sat with him for two hours while he was attended to in Whangarei Hospital.

He returned to the Aquatic Centre on Thursday to let his "pool family" - staff and customers - know he was okay, if not somewhat battered and bruised.

"I'm blessed to have good friends and the customers have been very sympathetic."

Following the attack Mr Houlahan urged elderly people to take care and if they had to walk the streets in the dark to ensure they had someone with them.

"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I live close to town to save on the cost of having a car. I was only on my way to work, that's all I was doing. You should have the right to walk to work in the mornings."

And he wasn't going to let the incident cloud his positive outlook on life.

"There are a lot of other people out there who have suffered the same humiliation as I have. I just want to say to them keep your spirits up and stay connected with the important things in your life, stay positive and move on.

"That's what I'm going to do."

- Northern Advocate

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