A 65-year-old Hastings man thought "it's all over" as a "possessed" teenager violently bashed him in the street.

John Higgs has walked the same path to work at The Elbow Room in Hastings every day for four years, but yesterday morning was different.

Rounding the corner from home he noticed a naked 18-year-old man emerging from a small flat in Grays Rd - he was of slim build, but bulked up with a "gorilla stance".

Little did Mr Higgs know the teen would allegedly attack him and assault his own grandmother in her 70s, before turning a knife on himself - sparking a rapid response from emergency services.


An off-duty police officer saw the nude male lingering outside as he drove past a short while later, but in the time it took for him to turn around the troubled youth was on the floor of his elderly grandmother's unit with multiple allegedly self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest.

"I saw this naked man and figured he was going out to get the paper - I thought, 'It's 7.30am. He must be nuts. It's bloody freezing'," Mr Higgs told Hawke's Bay Today.

Out of nowhere the nude figure had cursed him, then a fist struck the side of his face - and as he fell on to concrete, barefoot kicks pummeled his back and neck, and he wrenched his hands out of his pockets to protect his face from the blows.

"He was sort of shaky. It was the look of someone who's possessed - I have that in my mind," Mr Higgs said. "I looked around and thought, 'It's all over. I'm not going to get out of this'."

The beating only halted when a former colleague drove past and urged Mr Higgs to get in her car.

John Higgs, 65, was the victim of a random bashing as he walked to work in Hastings yesterday morning. Photo / Paul Taylor
John Higgs, 65, was the victim of a random bashing as he walked to work in Hastings yesterday morning. Photo / Paul Taylor

Once in the safety of a friend's home he called his boss to say he "was covered in blood" and wouldn't be in, before heading back to Grays Rd where police asked him to give a statement.

Once aware of the whole story Mr Higgs' thoughts turned to an elderly woman he had seen "only a couple of times" leaving her unit in the mornings, a woman he now realises was probably the source of the "moaning sound" in the background of his own ordeal.

"This guy was yelling and swearing. I could just see in his face there was something wrong with him," Mr Higgs said.


A source added that the teenager had punched his grandmother, knocking her to the ground in the driveway outside her home. She had suffered a serious head injury as a result of the fall.

When another family member had arrived he had walked inside and stabbed himself. It is understood the wounds punctured a lung.

Last night the 18-year-old Hastings man was transferred to Wellington Hospital where he was in a critical condition in intensive care, while his elderly grandmother was serious at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

Police cordoned off Grays Rd yesterday morning before setting up a blue tent outside to continue their investigations.

Close relatives of the elderly woman were unwilling to speak after the incident.

A neighbour who lived across the road said he was "bailed up" by police on his way to get a paper, but heard nothing of the horror that unfolded outside his home.

"I was in the shower when this happened. It's not every day you get bailed up by police."

Another man, who lived just down from from where the alleged assault happened, claimed it was a nice spot where he'd lived for eight years without any problems.

"It's a good neighbourhood but when you have got flats you don't know who is coming or going - you get a few people wandering around."