Man, 55, dies days after being beaten by youths in Devon park

A Devon man died a five days after he was allegedly attacked by a gang of youths in a Barnstaple park. Now Duane Murdoch’s partner wants to offer a £ 1,000 reward to find the teens who beat him up.

Pauline McCullagh, who has offered the reward, said that the cause of death has been recorded as natural causes. But relatives and friends of 55-year-old Duane believe the alleged attack may have played some part in his death soon afterwards. Duane was reportedly hit from behind and then kicked in the face and body while on the ground in the daylight attack by three youths in Castle Green Park near the library in Barnstaple at about 2.30pm on Easter Saturday.

Duane had been shopping at Iceland and can be seen leaving there at about 1.30pm. As he walked through the park the gang reportedly shouted ‘Where are you going old man?’ Duane replied ‘Going home’ as he walked away and then was knocked to the ground from behind. Two girls who were with the lads looked on. His face was left badly bruised and he had two broken ribs but did not go to hospital or report the attack to police.

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Pauline is now trying to find witnesses because she fears the gang of five attackers could strike again: “These youths are free to do this again as there are no consequences. I would like to offer £ 1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of these thugs, hoping that maybe even one of the girls may have a conscience. Unfortunately £ 1,000 is all that I can afford. “



Duane Murdoch after he was beaten up in a Barnstaple park, five days before his death
Duane Murdoch after he was beaten up in a Barnstaple park, five days before his death

Duane and Pauline met eight years ago on holiday in Cyprus and she said he was a hugely popular, kind and much-loved man: “I’m still numb since his death. I can not really take it in. He did have health problems and he was diabetic but he was fit and well the week before. “

Pauline, who lives in Birmingham, said Duane rang her after the attack but his speech was slurred and she was annoyed with him because she thought he had been drinking. So it was not until the following day that she found out what had happened. Neighbors who saw the bruising on his face and ribs urged him to go to hospital but he told them: “I’ve had worse playing rugby.”

The couple spoke twice a day by phone over the next few days. Their last call was on Thursday evening April 21: “He called me early evening to tell me that he had decided that he should go to hospital and would go the next day as he was tired and wanted to go to bed.

“At 8.25 he called again and said ‘I love you Pauline Ann McCullagh’. I told him if he loved me then he would look after himself and go to hospital. He repeated it again and said ‘I just need you to know that’ “In hindsight I would say that he knew he was dying for him to have used my full name.”

Duane’s body was found two days later after Pauline became increasingly concerned when she was unable to reach him by phone and neighbors did not see him out and about.

This is how Pauline described what happened in the days leading up to Duane’s death: “On April 16 he was attacked on Castle Green park behind the library and died five days later. It was Easter Saturday between 2pm and 3pm and yet apparently there were no witnesses.He was walking through the park minding his own business when he was approached by five youths, three lads and two girls.

“One of the boys said ‘Where are you going old man’ to which he replied ‘Going home’ and carried on walking. The next he knew he was hit from behind and once on the ground was kicked in the face and body by the boys whilst the girls looked on.

“Duane called me that evening and I could not understand him and was annoyed as I thought he had been drinking, I realize now that he was probably in shock. The following day he called me and explained what had happened. I asked if he had informed the police, he told me he had which unfortunately was not true, apparently he was too embarrassed.Despite the advice of his neighbors he refused to go to hospital.

“Duane had just spent four months with me in Birmingham where I now live to care for my sister who is disabled. He was a great support to me during a difficult time. He had only been back in Barnstaple for a week before this attack.

“The police told me that he died that day between 4pm and 8pm on April 21. I know that he was still alive at 8.25 when we spoke on the phone, but I doubt that he lasted much longer.

“The coroner put Duane’s death down to natural causes as he did not die straight away. They said that all his organs had broken down. All of us that that know Duane knew that this attack played it’s part in his death – even if indirectly “He had been fit and happy whilst in Birmingham one week earlier.”

Anybody who witnessed the attack or has any information which could help police is asked to contact the officer in the case Sgt John Crewe at Barnstaple police station and quote the investigation number EN / 005981/22. Any reward would have to be coordinated via Crimestoppers which is an independent body.

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