Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wheelchair user brutally beaten in Australia returns to Canada, says he's feeling fine

From the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada:

SELKIRK, Canada -- Two months after he was brutally beaten late at night at a train stop in Sydney, Australia, Heath Proden (pictured) appeared in provincial court showing no signs of the terrible attack.

"No, you wouldn't know" he had been attacked, Proden said. "If you want to tell people anything, tell them I'm doing fine and thanks for the support."

Proden, a 35-year-old, wheelchair-bound Winnipeg Beach man, had been in Australia four months when he was attacked following a Doc Walker concert. Members of the band and Proden had grown up together in Portage la Prarie.

The two boys who attacked him, both now 16 years old, have been in custody since their arrest.

North Sydney police allege the two boys attacked Proden while he waited for a train to take him back to the community where his girlfriend lives.

It's alleged the two boys stomped on Proden, beat him with a metal bar and tried to steal his wheelchair and personal belongings. Police said the attack was unprovoked.

The story made international headlines when a security video captured the beating, revealing the attackers returned several times to continue the assault.

While that matter remains before the courts in Australia, Proden was in a Selkirk courtroom to deal with some legal matters of his own.

He pleaded guilty Friday morning to a charge of dangerous driving stemming from a road-rage incident in November. A second charge of uttering threats was stayed by the Crown.

Proden was neatly attired in a blue dress shirt and dark slacks. He sat in his wheelchair at the back of the courtroom with his Australian girlfriend, Kristin Sharrock, and waited his turn on the docket.

Proden's appearance in court was unexpected because he had told the Free Press on Thursday that he still hadn't recovered from the attack and had made arrangements with his lawyer for another court date. He had returned from Australia sometime in the past week.

When his name was called, Proden wheeled to the side of the prisoner's dock and confirmed he was pleading guilty to the one charge.

He became involved in a driving incident on the night of Nov. 7, four days before he left for Australia, when he rammed a small car from behind while driving his specially adapted van on McPhillips Street. He threatened the 21-year-old East Kildonan resident driving the car, then drove to his mother's home in Winnipeg Beach. The victim followed Proden out of Winnipeg on Highway 8, noted the licence number and called 911.

Provincial court Judge Mary Curtis set Sept. 3 for sentencing.

Proden left court Friday morning with Sharrock and his lawyer and the three stopped to talk briefly on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.

Proden said he didn't want to talk about his criminal case or the attack in Australia, adding he was going to let the Australian courts deal with the two teens who beat and robbed him.

Proden said he was feeling fine and acknowledged that he bore no signs of the beating.