Police are appealing for information after an attempted assault on Lowther Road last Saturday.
Cardiff University student Duncan Leigh was walking home from the Students’ Union when it appeared that a vehicle was driven directly towards him in an attempt to hit him.
Leigh was wearing military surplus gear as part of an Airsoft event he had attended that evening, and it is thought that this may have made him a target. The incident took place on 28 February at around 21:00, shortly after the event ended.
Speaking to Gair Rhydd, Leigh said that there was a moment where he genuinely believed that he might have been killed: “For a split second, I thought, fuck, there’s nothing I can do, and that it could have been the end.”
He was spared when the driver swerved away to avoid an oncoming car. Witnesses have claimed that there was “no way” Leigh could have avoided the vehicle if the driver followed through with the attack.
Details on the incident are scarce, with no apparent suspects and no clear motive. However, it is not believed that the attacker simply lost control of the car.
Leigh told Gair Rhydd: “The driver aggressively revved the engine multiple times and sounded the horn before the car turned to hit me.” After the attack was unsuccessful, they sounded the horn a second time before driving away. They made no attempt to check Leigh’s welfare, nor the welfare of the oncoming car’s driver.
The stretch of Lowther Road where the incident took place has little lighting, and a number of street lamps have been been out of order for an extended period of time. Leigh said that he “couldn’t have seen anything in the darkness.”
Neither the victim nor any witnesses were able to identify any of the driver’s characteristics, or even if there were any passengers, because the street was in darkness. Rachel Roberts, a witness, said that neither she nor anybody else on the scene managed to memorise the number plate of the vehicle. Roberts said that she initially thought the incident was a “sick sort of greeting.” She said that Leigh “could have easily been killed or seriously hurt.”
She was accompanied by Rahul Modhavia, who told Gair Rhydd that he thought the car was a recent model VW Golf that looked like it had been “racered up.”
Modhavia was disgusted by the incident: “The driver should receive a ban.”
“If they’d hit the accelerator rather than the brake when they turned away from Duncan then he would have been hit for sure.”
He added that dangerous driving on this road was nothing new: “I often see people racing down Lowther Road, but I’ve never seen anything so stupid. I can’t imagine how frightening the experience must have been for Duncan.”
Another witness, Luke Berry, confirmed reports that the car was driving dangerously: “I can’t imagine that the driver started driving like a sane person after the incident.” Luke described the vehicle as being “black or dark blue.”
Leigh said that the driver’s decision to ram him looked to be taken in the “spur of the moment.” He also said that he did not believe that the driver was drunk: “If the driver was drunk, then I don’t think they would have been able to avoid me when they swerved away.”
Leigh said that he did not want to speculate as to the motive of the attacker. But, as he was wearing combat trousers and carrying a gun case as he returned from the airsoft event, it is believed that he might have been mistaken for a returning serviceman. “A police officer who visited me after the event advised me not to wear camouflage in future,” Leigh said.
He added it was equally possible it was simply a random act with no clear cause. “Half of me thinks it was because of the gear. But the other half thinks the perpetrator was just a bastard.”
A South Wales police representative spoke to Gair Rhydd about the incident and confirmed that an investigation is ongoing: “We are investigating a suspicious incident which was reported shortly after 10.00pm on Saturday 28th February.”
“A 22 year old man walk walking along the pavement of Lowther Road between Salisbury Road and Richmond Road at around 9.00pm when a motor car is reported to have driven towards him, clipping the kerb.”
“The vehicle is described as a dark coloured hatchback.”
Airsoft groups across the UK have warned members not to wear combat uniforms to and from events. A post on the ‘UK Airsoft Community’ Facebook group, which was shared by society presidents at students unions with airsoft societies, said that “given what was happening in the world,” it was “sensible” for those attending events to get changed at venues rather than wearing army uniforms to travel. The post made reference to the military, where servicemen have been advised not to wear uniforms when travelling to and from bases.
Leigh has been left traumatised by the event, and has been referred to a mental health service by his GP. Leigh also told Gair Rhydd that the Student Support Service at Park Place has been very helpful: “They have told me I can come back any time if I need extra support.”
While he says that “talking helps,” his interview with this publication was part of the first time he had left the house since the incident. “It took me an hour to build up the courage to leave the house. I had to pass the site of the incident on the way to this interview… I’m not sure of my own safety anymore.” He told Gair Rhydd of a diminished appetite, and that he had eaten very little since the event. Sleeping was also difficult.
James Clarke, a friend of the victim and the president of Cardiff University Airsoft Society, told Gair Rhydd that Leigh “hasn’t seemed like himself” since the incident. Clarke says that he believes this is the “first time an airsofter has been targeted like this.”
Clarke provided Gair Rhydd with a statement from the Airsoft Society advising members to avoid wearing full camouflage. “We recommend half greens (camouflage bottoms and a different top), as not only does this mean that you do not have to fully change after an airsoft meet, but as it is also obvious to the general public that you are not a member of the British military.” The society confirmed in the statement that this was only a recommendation, and that their pre-existing restrictions on clothing would not change.
When queried about the state of street lighting on Lowther Road, a City of Cardiff Council Spokesperson said: “We inspect all our street lamps on a regular basis and at the time of the last inspection there were no faults on Lowther Road.”
“We deal with all reported faults as quickly as possible and due to the seriousness of this incident we will ensure that the lights on Lowther Road are repaired within 48 hours.”
“We would encourage anybody who sees a problem of this nature to report it via our C2C contact centre on 029 2087 2087 or online via www.cardiff.gov.uk so that we can remedy any faults.”
Anyone who may have witnessed this incident or who may have any information concerning the vehicle involved is asked to contact South Wales Police on 101 and quote reference 1500070561