A trainee teacher on life support after a brutal assault in central Auckland is being described by friends as a kind and gentle person.
Tarun Asthana, 25, was clinging to life in Auckland City Hospital last night, surrounded by family and friends, after falling victim to what police describe as a random attack near Britomart at 5.10am yesterday.
Police say Asthana was standing on the pavement after leaving McDonald's when he and another male had a brief exchange of words.
Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Florence said Asthana was punched in the head and fell "heavily", striking his head on the pavement.
Asthana was taken to hospital in a critical condition and was in intensive care last night.
Eddie Lo had been enjoying a night out with Asthana but left before he was attacked.
He said he had been told the trouble flared after Asthana complimented a young woman on her dress.
"She had a go at him because she thought he was hitting on her, and then her boyfriend runs up and smashes him in the head and runs off. He was just complimenting her and she went psycho. It's so tragic that this could happen to him."
Lo, a dance instructor, had been to see Asthana in intensive care unit yesterday. "His mother was at his side praying. The waiting room and the entire hallway was filled up with friends and family. It was packed. There was a lot of grieving, a lot of crying."
"He's too young to be in this situation," said Lo.
Asthana had DJed in several Auckland clubs, performing with the Sweet Mix Kids at Britomart bar 1885, said Lo.
Another friend, Ludwig Worrall-Bader, who trained to be a teacher with Asthana at the University of Auckland's Epsom campus, said his friend was "full of life and beyond nice". He said he was "such a good guy. He would drop anything for you and be there if you needed him".
Asthana was not the sort of person to provoke an attack, he said.
Police were still trying to locate the assailant last night. They were examining closed-circuit TV footage for a clear image of the culprit or the assault.
Florence said the attacker had been in McDonald's with several other men and women and the group had left straight after the attack toward Quay St.
The assailant was described as Maori or Polynesian with a solid build, light blue long-sleeved shirt, and a tattoo on his right forearm.
Anyone who was in the area at the time should call Auckland police on (09) 302 6516 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
- Additional reporting Teuila Fuatai of APNZ