Counting Crime is a Herald series looking at where and when offending is happening in the community - and who the victims are. Each day we will look at a different category of crime and examine the numbers, meet the people affected the most and reveal the times, days and places you are more likely to fall victim. Today we look at assaults.

A victim of a vicious downtown assault will never be the same man he once was and continues to battle to simply remember his family's names.

Robert Bryden suffered a severe brain injury when he was viciously attacked by Ioritana Tuau in downtown Wellington during September 2011.

Now more than six years on from the attack, his mother Vicki Bryden, who spoke to the Herald as part of its series Counting Crime, says her son continues to battle to recall the simplest of memories from a now past life.

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"He stepped in to do what he thought was the best thing and he ended up getting assaulted and fighting for his life in Wellington Hospital," Vicki said.

Bryden was nearly a month in intensive care, and had severe swelling to his head and a fractured right eye socket.

He was kept on a ventilator and was sedated for several days.

His chances of survival were critical and his chances of ever fully recovering were slim.

As his condition stabilised, he was later transferred to a specialist brain unit in Porirua.

He remained there for eight months.

Forced to learn to walk, talk and eat again, he also suffered from post-traumatic amnesia.

"We decided to take him home because we felt we could look after him better," Vicki said.


"He's been battling this for five years, it's been very difficult ... Robert's not the person he used to be, our lives are totally different than what they were."

A cliche of how one short moment in someone's life can change it forever rang true every time Vicki saw her son.

"His whole life has basically been erased, and he's had to start again."

The life changing moment began during the afternoon of September 14, 2011 when Bryden and two friends, who had been drinking, decided to catch a train from the Kapiti Coast into Wellington.

After visiting several pubs and bars, the trio turned for home.

Just after 3.30am, as the men walked back to the Wellington Railway Station they came across Ioritana Tuau.

Tuau, who played for the Penrith Panthers' under-20 team, was arguing with a woman in front of Cafe Baba.

Bryden in a hyperbolic oxygen chamber to help him recover from his severe brain injuries. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Bryden in a hyperbolic oxygen chamber to help him recover from his severe brain injuries. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Bryden and his mates intervened to help the woman. But, with both groups laden with alcohol in their systems, the scene quickly escalated.

Court files obtained by the Herald show evidence by witnesses suggest there was a "flurry of blows" with Bryden and Tuau, who was knocked to the ground.

As Bryden and his friends left the altercation, Taua and two others gave chase of Bryden.

He was quickly cornered at the entrance to a closed car park.

Tuau then unleashed a frenzied attack on Bryden, knocking him to the ground, and while in a prone position, Tuau repeatedly kicked Bryden's head.

On each occasion, as Bryden's head was kicked, it hit a concrete barrier behind him, making a sickening "thudding noise", court files reveal.

Bryden lost consciousness, before a member of the public was able to intervene and Tuau and his associates fled.

Robert Bryden continues to recover from the brutal assault in 2011. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Robert Bryden continues to recover from the brutal assault in 2011. Photo / Mark Mitchell

On September 20, 2011, after seeing a CCTV image of himself, Tuau voluntarily went to the Lower Hutt Police Station, accepted involvement and provided the clothes and shoes that he had been wearing that night to police.

Tuau told police that, as a result of his state of intoxication, he could not remember what happened. In particular, he had no recollection of kicking or stomping Bryden's head.

During Tuau's sentencing, Justice Forrest Miller said alcohol had a large part to play in the "brutal" attack.

Tuau had drunk so much that he had passed out before he came across Bryden and his friends.

He was jailed for nine years.

In late 2013 his appeal against his sentence was dismissed.

Read more stories from the series here:

Counting Crime: NZ's CBDs our most dangerous places
Counting Crime: Our country's violence fuelled by liquor
Smash and grab victim: 'just don't leave stuff in your car'
Car stolen by brazen thieves as couple slept 5m away
An in-depth look at offending and victims in New Zealand
Thefts from cars - when, why, how and who
Retailers in harm's way
Retail thefts cost country $1.2b
Small business owner more vigilant