IT WAS a physical assault on two girls that even their 19-year-old attacker was to label as “monstrous”.
The case that shocked an entire community and sparked an increase in police patrols and appeals for public calm reached its climax in court this week with the jailing of Ryan Walker, below, from Thornhill, Southampton for four-and-a-half years.
But as parents of the two victims asked why his sentence was not harsher, Walker’s mother, who collapsed when the sentences were announced, was left wondering how her “bright and caring” son had snapped so violently.
For Tanya Walker the explanation, she said, lay in years of bullying suffered by the 19-year-old.
And while not condoning his actions in any way, she spoke to the Daily Echo of her hope that more could be done to protect children from bullies to prevent similar incidents.
As the Daily Echo reported this week, Walker’s actions that night were labelled “monstrous”by the teenager himself when arrested.
The court hearing had been told that after the girls, aged 15 and 16, had taunted him for his “Harry Potter” looks he threw a bottle- full of water over the them.
Walker's grandmother Brenda Chahal
A short while later he collected a vegetable knife and when the friends, it was claimed, goaded and spat at him he lost his temper, stabbing one in the face. Walker then floored her friend with several punches.
He hit the girl again as she lay on the floor, pulled her hair and smashed her head against a fence, shouting “die, die.”
Walker’s 41-year-old mother Tanya collapsed when he was jailed after pleading guilty to wounding with intent, attempted wounding with intent and possessing a bladed article.
His mother said it was a trigger after years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of others.
His parents split up when he was young and his mother’s subsequent relationship with another man also broke down.
One of his victims Emma Kebble shortly after the attack
He was said to have endured bullying at both schools and his mother only found out the extent after the incident.
Tanya said: “He witnessed violence as a youngster and he was continually bullied. When you get older it becomes easier to hide these things because you don’t want to be a burden on your family and you go through life saying everything is fine.
“I just wish he had opened up to me because this came as a complete shock to the family.”
She added: “You go through life thinking your children are safe. When the verdict came out I just remember collapsing.
Leah Pearce - Walker's other victim who was stabbed in the face
“You get to a point where bottling things up becomes a habit and then things come to a head. The words that were mentioned in court were “bully retaliation” and I had to do research into that to come to terms with what happened. I found these cases in Australia and America where similar things happened.
“Ryan clearly stated it was not just them he saw but the faces of every person that had bullied him all his life. It was a one-off psychological reaction to verbal and physical abuse.
“I don’t condone what he did and none of his family does either. It was wrong and he should have come and talked to me. Ryan doesn’t condone it either; I only wish he had come to me first.”
Walker, above, as a toddler witnessed violence when young, says his mother
But Allen Keeble, father of 15-yearold Emma, who was severely beaten by Walker, said no amount of bullying justified Walker’s actions.
Mr Keeble, 46, said: “I appreciate he had a bad childhood but I do not think that is an excuse whatsoever and there are hundreds of thousands of people who have had an unhappy childhood but they do not go round attacking people.
“These girls were not part of any prolonged bullying, it was something that happened for a short while on that one day.”
Now Tanya, a carer, of Thornhill, is calling for schools to clamp down on bullying early and stop similar incidents happening in the future.
She said: “My main concern is I do not think schools or colleges are doing enough to deal with bullying in school. I don’t think a clear enough picture is getting across that bullying wrecks lives.
Hinkler Green - scene of the the attacks
“If they had regular talks in assemblies in school with regard to the extreme impact of bullying like children self harming, committing suicide and retaliating then maybe that would have an effect.
“I would like to see every school in this country have a safe room with a counsellor who specifically deals with bullying. I do not want other children to suffer in silence.
“When bullying is found we should not just punish the culprit but find out what is causing them to bully, whether it is problems at home or they are being bullied themselves. It needs to be made clear from as young an age as possible it is not acceptable.”
His family described him as a bright, hard working student who loves photography, films and architecture.
Grandma Brenda Chahal, of Northam, said: “It was so out of character for him. He would always visit me and help me out with technology because he is so good at that.”
Ryan is currently in Winchester Prison