Wife of Worthing park attack victim speaks out after teens are found guilty

Alan Willson's wife said the family have 'lost someone who was an amazing person' after the Worthing dad was left with life-changing injuries following an attack last year.

Mr Willson, who was a care worker, was attacked in Longcroft Park, Durrington, on Easter Sunday last year.

After a trial lasting more than a week, a jury, on Thursday (May 12), found two boys under the age of 16 – who cannot be named for legal reasons – guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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Harry Furlong, 18, of Horsham, was cleared of causing grievous bodily harm with intent but found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm.

Mr Willson, 47, was beaten with a wooden log and left with 'severe' brain injuries and multiple fractures, Lewes Crown Court at Hove was told. He was not expected to survive and has made a 'limited recovery'.

Police said that, through extensive rehabilitation, Mr Willson has been able to walk and eat again, however more than a year after the assault, he is still unable to talk.

Alan’s wife Annie said: “Alan didn’t walk into the park like this. Alan walked into the park being able to speak a sentence, and to move and to dance and play football. 

“Before this happened, Alan was the kindest, gentlest man ever. His personality was amazing. He would make you laugh if he saw you were down, he would joke about. How he is now is hugely different. His life is gone. He’s a completely different man.

Care worker Alan Willson, 47, was attacked in Longcroft Park, Durrington, on Easter Sunday last year. Photo: Sussex Police

“The community has been amazing. I never even knew that level of support could reach us, but the money they raised has allowed us to adapt the house, putting laminate down and buying equipment for Alan. It has helped massively. Without that and without the local community, my husband wouldn’t have been able to come home.

“The impact it’s had on my family has been massive. We have lived this past year without an ‘I love you’, without ‘goodnight kids’, without any laughing and joking.

“Our whole family has been through hell and will continue to go through hell forever.”

Speaking outside court after the teenagers were convicted, Annie added: "I feel relieved that it's over but now we have to find our new normal.

Harry Furlong, 18, of Horsham, was cleared of causing grievous bodily harm with intent but found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm.

"We are all distraught. We have lost someone who was an amazing person.

"Even though I say we've lost him, he's still here. So it's very difficult.

"He doesn't fall into any category."

Mrs Willson said the lack of remorse from the children involved in the attack made her 'quite angry', adding: "At the end of the day, there's nothing we can do about it.

Speaking outside court after the teenagers were convicted, Annie Willson (left) said: "I feel relieved that it's over. But now we have to find our new normal."

"They are how they are and behave how they behave.

"Above all we are Willsons and we, at all times, will behave with dignity and strength."

The defendants claimed, when giving evidence, that they were acting in self-defence against Mr Willson and alleged that he came armed with a log.

Mrs Willson said her husband was attacked after he 'went to rescue a little boy'.

She added: "He was not the kind of person to hurt anybody. If he had taken a stick round there, he would have dropped it when he saw they were children.

"He was the calmer one out of the two of us. I was the feisty one. He would have said lets go, lets leave it.

"That's how I know they weren't telling the truth because that's not Alan."

Detective Inspector Chris Rambour, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime team, read a statement outside court.

He said: "This was a sickening and violent assault on an innocent man, who simply stepped in to help a young boy who was hurt and upset.

"The injuries Alan suffered shows this was a sustained and prolonged attack. The people responsible for this clearly intended to cause serious harm with their actions and have not shown any remorse since.

"I would like to thank Annie and the rest of Alan's family for their bravery and dignity they have shown throughout this heartbreaking ordeal.

"I can only hope the result of court today brings some comfort to them and allows them to move forward and focus fully on Alan's recovery.

"I would also like to thank our team of investigators who worked so hard to build a strong case and the witnesses who came forward to help bring those responsible to justice."