A 12-year-old Tauranga boy is having difficulty sleeping after he was punched, kicked and put in a headlock by a man biking along the Taradale cycleway, his mother says.
Tyrese Nohokau's holiday in Napier is coming to an early end after the attack by the man who was biking the cycleway between the Pettigrew Green Arena and Murphy Rd - simply because he yelled out a greeting to him.
Police said it appeared the man had taken what the boy said the wrong way and confronted him when the "savage and prolonged attack" occurred.
He ended up being taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital for treatment for superficial injuries.
Tyrese and two of his friends were walking near the cycleway having returned from a swim in the river about 2.40pm on Tuesday.
His mother, Michelle Nohokau, said she spent an hour on the phone to Tyrese on Tuesday night and he told her he was scared to go to sleep in case the man came back.
"I talked to him until he went off to sleep," she said, adding however he woke up in the night "fearful he would come and get him".
She described it as "just horrible" and said minutes after being contacted by a St John Ambulance Service officer and police, she began making plans to get to Napier to take him back home.
She said she grew up in Taradale and the family regularly went down to the river for a swim, and Tyrese and his mates had made several visits there this time.
"How could something like that happen in this really nice, quiet area?"
She said she would be taking time away from her work to pick Tyrese up today and take him home.
Her son often holidayed in Napier as that was where her parents lived, and he had made many friends during his stays here with them.
He arrived two days after Christmas and it was planned he would stay for the rest of the school holidays.
He had lived in Tauranga since he was about two but enjoyed his holidays in the Bay with his grandparents - until Tuesday.
The incident was described by Hawke's Bay Police Acting Sergeant Andy Clinton as "diabolical".
Mr Clinton said it appeared the cyclist, described as in his 40s or 50s and wearing black pants and a grey top, took exception to what the youngster called out to him.
The boys, who were all left shaken by what happened, were asked by police in the wake of the assault what had been said.
Mr Clinton said the boys said they were just "clowning around" and that the boy had yelled out "hi" to the man - and that he appeared to take it the wrong way. "But regardless of what might have been said these were just kids being kids - this boy got a real hiding."
Mr Clinton said the young victim told police the man approached him and grabbed him by the throat.
"He then allegedly punched the victim and put him in a headlock, and this caused him to fall down a stock bank."
Mr Clinton said the man then chased the boy down the bank, re-applied the headlock and kicked him in the back before making off.
The three boys ran to a nearby car park and told people who were gathered there what had happened and police were called.
The man rode off in the direction of the EIT but about 30 minutes later returned to the area and was seen by a member of the public who gave chase but was unable to get to him as he cycled off in the direction of Carters Arms Park.
"This was a savage and prolonged attack by a grown man on a boy barely able to defend himself," Mr Clinton said.
"It was a seemingly unprovoked and diabolical attack carried out and in public in broad daylight - it could have been so much worse for the poor young fella." The boy was left "very shaken up".
Mr Clinton said the man was riding a white mountain bike with a large black rear mudguard and police wanted to hear from anyone who may have seen him riding in the cycleway area, or may have some idea who he is.
Police can be contacted on 837 0100 or by anonymously phoning Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.