Sussex Police came to campus this week to appeal for witnesses in the search for a group of males who carried out a series of violent attacks and robberies on students.
The attacks happened over the course of an evening at a rave at the back of campus two weeks ago. The men, believed to number between five and ten, carried out a series of separate assaults in the early hours of the morning of 4th October. In some cases, it is alleged that the men pretended to be security guards searching for drugs to enable them to handcuff their victims before beating them up and robbing them.
It appears that the attackers were not students and picked predominantly on male students. In most cases the students had become isolated from their friends and so were an easier target for the attackers. In total, eight people have reported robberies or assaults to the police but it is believed there may be others who have not yet reported their incidents.
In a number of cases people were knocked unconscious by the attackers and police woman DC Cheryl Lewendon said “the injuries the victims have sustained are really quite serious”.
Keely Hill, a 22 year-old from Brighton, was with her boyfriend in the woods when they were attacked. She said, “They came up to us and I thought they were happy partyers like ourselves. We asked them to move on jokingly and then they just set on us with batons and clubs causing bruises and cuts.” Ms Hill said they were not senseless delinquents but premeditated attacks by fully-grown men: “I think they were between the ages of 20 and 35, these were not little boys.”
The rave was the latest in a tradition of free parties held in the woods around campus. Police estimate that this one was attended by up to 3000 people, but organisers have lower estimates. But the violence that accompanied these raves is a new phenomenon, and a worrying one for student safety. Richa Kaul-Padte, USSU Welfare Officer, said “the priority is student safety and awareness that there are always risks when going out, especially at night. Students should make sure that at all times they are looking out for their friends, make sure they don’t go out alone and remain vigilant when out.”
The free events may be having negative effects on the ability to hold outdoor events on campus. Tarek Khalil, the bars manager for USSU, said “such events taking place on or near to campus can affect our ability to get a licence for legitimate events on campus. I strongly suspect that next year we will be unable to get a licence for the Welcome Sunday event that was run in freshers’ week this year. Every year these raves make our job of providing exciting and safe outdoor events for students harder.”
But there is little expectation that these events will cause the end of the raves. One of the rave organisers, who goes by the pseudonym Synapticat, said “these recent attacks are an example of a callous and calculated brutality. But I’ve been going to the raves since I started at Sussex and nothing nearly that messed up has ever happened. So why should the behaviour of a few goons spell the end of skanking under the stars for Sussex students or anyone else who wants to be there?”
What is clear, however, is that the security implications for students are serious and that more must be done to ensure safety at these raves. When asked whether she would go again Ms Hill was quick to point out that for most people the party was fun-filled and danger free: “Most people weren’t aware of anything, if you stayed around the main area then you would have been fine.”
She would even consider going again, if they catch the attackers: “If the bastards responsible were brought to justice then I would go again, but not until that day.”
Ms Hill called for people to come forward and speak to the police if they saw anything at all. “There might be people who were in a lighter area who might have seen them and they need to come forward”. In a similar vein the police were quick to stress that their priority was on the robberies and assaults, with DC Cheryl Lewendon saying “We don’t care why you were at the raves, we want to hear about the assaults. If anyone has any information please help us bring these people to justice.”
It appears that the attacks may have had a negative effect on the whole atmosphere of the rave with a malicious undercurrent. A third year Sussex undergraduate who wished to remain anonymous said “the atmosphere was a bit sour all evening. The good vibes normally associated with free raves just weren’t there this time.”
As yet there have been no arrests but the police are appealing for witnesses.
If you any information please contact Cheryl Lewendon DC on 0845 607 7099, ext. 50520.