Josh Storer before (left) and after (right) doctors inserted an artificial skull to restore his head. Photo / Supplied
A man who threw a young Brit living the dream in New Zealand down a flight of stairs, causing him significant brain damage, has been sentenced to prison.
Thomas Louis Nathan, 57, pleaded guilty last month to one charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to injure after he threw Josh Storer down the stairs of an Albany pub last year.
Judge Kathryn Maxwell said “one moment of aggression” had affected many lives, acknowledging the family and friends of both men who sat in the public gallery at the Auckland District Court on Friday.
Storer, then 25, still suffers from serious, long-term brain injuries as a result of the July 9, 2021 assault.
Doctors had to remove the right half of Storer’s skull to save his life, later inserting an artificial skull panel to reconstruct his head in a second operation before he was flown home to the United Kingdom, where he is still struggling to recover in a brain injury hospital.
The two men had spoken briefly at The Albany pub on Auckland’s North Shore before Nathan grabbed Storer by the front of his jacket and threw him backward with such force that he fell down a 2.6m flight of stairs, crashing head-first onto concrete below which split the back of his head and knocked him out immediately.
Bystanders tried to give first aid and called emergency services, while Nathan and his friends left.
Nathan could not explain to police why he did it except that Storer was annoying him, according to court documents.
He later told a pre-sentence report writer that Storer was “in his face” and “like a little terrier” that wouldn’t let go.
Nathan also claimed in the report he wasn’t aware the stairs were there. The judge dismissed it, saying “it defies common sense” when looking at pictures of the pub and deck where the incident happened.
“Your offending is serious,” Judge Maxwell told Nathan, saying the attack was unprovoked and gratuitous even though there was no evidence to suggest he intended to wound or cause serious bodily harm to his victim.
Being annoying was never serious enough to qualify as provocation, she said. “Never.”
Storer was also vulnerable, being smaller than Nathan, intoxicated, and had his back to the stairs when he was taken by surprise and thrown, the judge said.
Reading her victim impact statement in court, Storer’s mother Dawn said they were on holiday 10,000 miles away when they received the call telling them their son was in an induced coma fighting for his life after an assault in Auckland.
She started throwing up and Ian sank in tears to the ground of the Cornwall carpark they were at, their daughter looking on, unable to work out who to tend to.
That was the start of an ordeal that would see the family’s lives turned upside down, rushing across the world as doctors worked to keep their son alive.
New Zealand was in lockdown but they managed to fly in on an emergency MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) slot, where they waited two weeks to get to Josh’s bedside.
“As parents we have never felt so useless and scared as we were still in MIQ,” she said.
“We would like you to take into account that this is far from over for Josh and ourselves,” she said, addressing Nathan at one point.
“The extent of his injuries will be unknown for some time … Will he be able to work again? Will he be able to come back to New Zealand? Will I have to become my son’s carer?
“You walked away and left him bleeding and unconscious and fighting for his life.”
Judge Maxwell said Nathan has done little to make things right since the incident – both his letter of apology and offer to pay reparations came too late.
But she gave him credit for his guilty plea and pointed to letters from his family and friends describing him as a loyal man family man whose offending was “completely out of character”.
She sentenced Nathan to two years and five months in jail.
Security officers took him away as his partner and family members in the public gallery broke down and cried.
Outside the courtroom, Storer’s parents told Open Justice they are relieved and can now focus their energy on Josh “100 per cent”.
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