Reporter: Hamish Auskerry
Police still hunting for cowardly campus mugger.
A CCTV image of a man suspected of mugging a disabled Newcastle student has been released by Northumbria Police.
Alex Nicklen, 19, a Politics and History fresher who suffers from bona bifida, a spinal condition that leads to poor mobility, had his phone stolen on campus in a terrifying ordeal.
While walking home past Merz Court in broad daylight on Sunday 14th, a man told Alex, to ‘give me your phone or I’ll put a gun to your head’.
A week on, Alex has talked to The Courier about his Valentine’s Day nightmare.
“I was walking much slower and limping slightly that afternoon so it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to defend myself at all”.
“When he was in front of me, my body was telling me to run but consciously I knew I didn’t have the capabilities to defend myself or escape from the situation”.
“My thought was not that I was going to get shot – I didn’t think at the time that was very likely – but he was about 5”11 with an athletic build and he clearly had the capacity to beat me up at the very least”.
Northumbria Police are investigating whether Alex, who is from Morpeth in Northumberland, was targeted specifically because of his disability.
Newcastle Superintendent Bruce Storey said: “Enquiries are ongoing into this incident and we will look into the possibility that the offender has targeted the victim because of his vulnerability.
“If this is the case then this is completely unacceptable and cowardly behaviour and we need to identify the offender as soon as possible and take action”.
Although Alex was physically unhurt by the incident, he has told The Courier about the ongoing effects on his emotional wellbeing.
“Everyone has been so helpful and caring about it which has helped a lot but it’s still very difficult for me to return to the site of where it happened”, Alex explained.
The response of the public to the attack has been one of shock and disgust, as well as concern about the safety of students on campus.
Alex said: “Some people, especially many of my Chinese friends, said to me that they had been told Newcastle was a safe city and so they were surprised and anxious that it could happen to them”.
Alex himself admits that the ordeal is having an adverse affect on his life at university.
“Sometimes if someone makes a sudden movement or comes into my eye line I jump a bit”, explained Alex, who lives in Park Terrace.
“I already felt quite vulnerable generally, although I don’t necessarily show it. When I’m around people who look like unsavoury characters I do often think that they can see my vulnerability and so they might do something to me.
“I guess that fear is going to exacerbated by this incident”.
Police are still appealing for witnesses. Anyone who was in the area and who may have seen or heard anything suspicious is asked to contact the Police.
Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting log number 684 of 14/082/16 or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.