“One punch – that’s all it took to destroy my boy’s life”
These are the words of a heart-broken mother whose son was the victim of a one punch attack.
The case study is being released this week by North Yorkshire Police, which has teamed up with the One Punch UK charity to help prevent tragic deaths and life-changing injuries.
The victim’s devastated dad drove more than 9,000 miles while visiting his son every day in hospital as medics worked tirelessly to save his life following a severe head injury in the attack in Scarborough.
Jamie Kelly lost half of his skull while neurosurgeons were treating a bleed on his brain at Hull Royal Infirmary.
The now 42-year-old from Scarborough is showing slow yet encouraging signs of improvement, but the severity of his injuries means he is likely to require specialist care for the rest of his days.
The man responsible for Jamie’s condition is 34-year-old Daniel George Johnson.
At precisely 1.28pm on Wednesday 16 September 2021, Johnson punched Jamie in the head while they were near a pedestrian crossing on Ramshill Road.
Then utter devastation for Jamie, his mum Brenda, dad Michael, sister Michelle and all their family and friends.
Johnson was arrested nearby and was later charged with Section 18 wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
However, the court accepted a guilty plea to the lesser charge of Section 20 grievous bodily harm.
Johnson was sentenced to two years and five months’ imprisonment at York Crown Court 7 March 2022.
Detective Constable Peter Day, of Scarborough and Ryedale CID, led the investigation into the assault and has provided support to Jamie’s parents throughout this ordeal.
He said: “This has been a truly horrendous experience for Jamie and especially for his parents who thought they were going to lose their son.
“No outcome at court will undo the devastation that Johnson caused with one punch.
“The victim personal statements of Jamie’s parents were read out in court during the sentencing. “Brenda and Michael have given their blessing for us to publish the statements on the force website and on social media to show the full catastrophic impact this one punch attack has had.
“I urge people to read them and make sure younger members of the family learn from this case.”
Statement from Jamie’s mam, Brenda:
“On the afternoon of Wednesday 16 September 2021, I received an emotional phone call from Jamie’s dad Michael – my ex-husband – telling me that Jamie had been punched unexpectedly which had caused him to fall and hit his head off the ground resulting in him being taken to Scarborough Hospital.
“I immediately felt utter panic then dread and began to shake.
“My husband, Mike, was sat next to me and could hear the conversation as I always put the speakerphone on as I’m hard of hearing.
“Jamie’s dad then went on to say that Jamie had just had a scan and it showed a massive bleed on the brain. I felt completely numb, all I could think was that I was going to lose my boy – this sort of thing is what you hear about happening to other people, which is heart-breaking, but never in a million years do you think it would happen to your family, especially your child.
“I tried to calm myself down as Jamie’s dad was telling me that he had to have surgery but that he needed to be transferred to Hull Hospital.
“Before he could be transferred, he needed to be put in an induced coma for his own safety – he was in a critical condition.
“I was an emotional mess on the phone, all I could imagine was that Jamie wasn’t going to wake up and that I might never see my son alive again.
“Jamie’s dad said he’d ring me whenever he had news, but he also asked if I could ring our daughter and tell her what had happened.
“I was in no fit state to talk to Chelle, I could not stop sobbing or catch my breath and was shaking so hard, so my husband said that he’d ring her and let her know about her brother.
“My daughter was the person who rang around family to tell them, as I was incapable of forming a cohesive sentence.
“Waiting for the phone call from Jamie’s dad to tell me if the surgery had been successful or whether my boy was no longer with us was absolutely horrific.
“Michael rang me to tell me that Jamie had come out of surgery, but he also said that Jamie was still in a critical condition and on a ventilator.
“The thought of Jamie being on life support was so frightening. Michael told me that a large piece of Jamie’s skull had been removed and it wouldn’t be replaced until the swelling etc in his brain would be normal. It was going to be a waiting game.
“I live in Spennymoor, County Durham, I felt miles away. I just kept thinking what if he dies, I need to be with him.
“We quickly packed a bag and jumped in the car. We were in the petrol station filling up when Jamie’s dad rang again to tell me that due to Covid, Jamie was only going to be allowed one visitor.
“His dad lives in Scarborough so it only made sense that he would be the one to be at Jamie’s bedside.
“My heart was breaking, not only was my son going through possibly the toughest time of his life but me, his mam, wasn’t allowed to be there at his side while he tried to recover from his surgery.
“All I wanted to do was to hold his hand, talk to him and tell him everything was going to be alright…to give him a kiss and tell him I was here, but I couldn’t.
“I wasn’t allowed to see my boy for eight long weeks.
“I couldn’t leave the house as I just kept breaking down in tears as we didn’t know whether he would make it. The possibility of my son dying was a constant fear due to how poorly he was.
“I was in such a state. I felt like I was in a different world – I was here…but I wasn’t, I was like a zombie. My husband was my rock, if it wasn’t for his support trying to function from one day to the next, it would have been even harder.
“After eight weeks we were told Jamie was going to be transferred back to Scarborough.
“He was only there four days as the hospital didn’t have the resources to take care of him.
“Again, Covid prevented both me and Jamie’s dad from visiting and it was heart-breaking knowing he was alone, none of us could hold his hand.
“He was transferred to York General Hospital High Dependency Unit which meant, at long last, I could visit my boy!
“Seeing Jamie for the first time was a massive shock to the system. My eyes were immediately drawn to his head.
“I expected his head to be bandaged but it took my breath away to see that it looked like he only had half of his head.
“I didn’t expect the amount of his skull missing to be as severe as it looked. He looked like his head was sunken on one side.
“He had a tracheotomy as well as a feeding tube fitted. The anti-seizure medication and damage done to his brain meant that he was in a constant deep sleep.
“Looking at my boy so helpless was extremely emotional, the tears running down my face wouldn’t stop.
“I was happy to see Jamie but that was over-shadowed by the heartache we were going though as a family.
“We thought Jamie was recovering but then the neurologist looking after him told me that he was still critical and, if he got better, there was a concern that Jamie would never live an independent life again.
“I felt like I’d been sucker punched, the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t shining as brightly anymore.
“Then Jamie shocked us all.
“Within a few weeks he started to open his eyes, then obeying simple commands.
“His tracheotomy was removed and within a couple of days he started trying to talk.
“As ecstatic as we were, we noticed that Jamie had a severe tremor, which meant he couldn’t do things such as feed himself. One of his eyes turned outwards on a severe angle, which meant he needed special glasses to help him see. This in addition to him not being able to stand or walk.
“He’s recently been transferred to Woodlands Rehab Centre with the hope of them being able to help him begin to recover some of the functions that a person needs to live a successful independent life.
“When I look at my son what I should see, what I want to see, is a strong, fit, happy independent 41-year-old man.
“But all I do see, due to a violent punch that Daniel Johnson inflicted on him, is a shell of a man. A man who has to drink from a non-spill sippy cup, who needs help eating because of tremors wrack his entire body. He can’t go to the toilet or shower himself.
“My son needs to learn to walk again because Daniel Johnson decided he would punch him, obviously intending to hurt him.
“Jamie has so many mountains to climb due to medical issues caused by Daniel Johnson.
“What our family has gone though, and is still going through, is senseless.
“This is all because one so-called man thought that violence was OK.
“Does Daniel Johnson realise that his actions alone have ensured my son has life limiting injuries?
“Jamie needs justice, I need justice, my family needs justice.
“One punch – that’s all it took to destroy my boy’s life as he knew it.”
Statement from Jamie’s dad, Michael Kelly
“Little did I know when waking on the 16 September 2021, that later that day my life and my son Jamie’s life was to change forever.
“I answered the door to an ex-neighbour called Adam who said that Jamie had been assaulted on Ramshill Road and the emergency ambulance was there.
“I rushed up to Ramshill Road, but the ambulance had left to go to the hospital so therefore I got into my car and made my way to Scarborough A&E.
“On arrival at the hospital, I was asked to take a seat, and someone would come to see me.
“Eventually, after a couple of hours and several times asking for updates on my son’s condition, a policewoman came to see me and told me that the doctors were still working to save Jamie’s life.
“I was in a very dark place after being told Jamie was critically injured. My mind was in turmoil thinking of what could happen.
“After another long period of time a doctor took me through to where the crash team were still working very hard to save Jamie. It was then that the decision was taken to transfer Jamie to Hull Royal Infirmary in order to have a life-saving operation.
“As soon as I had enough information on Jamie’s condition, I called his mother to let her know what had happened and what the plan was to transfer Jamie.
“In order to minimise the shock news, I told her that our son was strong and that he was a fighter and would pull through this nightmare. I promised to keep her informed at all times as I had any news.
“Even at this point I was aware that it would be a long hard road for Jamie with both highs and lows.
“I travelled to Hull to be with Jamie and was told that, due to Covid, I was the only person who would be able to see Jamie. I called Jamie’s mam Brenda and told her this. She was distraught but I told her that I would keep her informed at every step.
“The neurologists at Hull operated on Jamie and had to remove the left side of his skull to be able to stop a severe bleed on the brain. The doctors kept me informed at all times and were honest with me how seriously ill Jamie was.
“I realised that I could lose my son at any time, but I kept my sanity by convincing myself that my son was a fighter and would pull through this nightmare.
“I had no respite from the sickly feeling that was with me day and night as a result of my poor son’s predicament.
“Jamie’s mam was distraught every time I rang her, but I tried my best to stay positive for her.
“I could only imagine the hell she was going through by not being able to see her son.
“I thanked God that I was able to see Jamie every day. It was a blessing really that Brenda did not have to go through the trauma of seeing Jamie on life support.
“As days turned into weeks with Jamie still in a critical condition, I was grasping at any straw to see improvements and on October 2nd Jamie briefly opened his eyes slightly, but it was enough to say that my prayers had been answered.
“Jamie at this point was on five different anti-seizure drugs along with other medications.
“Brenda was thrilled when I called her with the news that our son had opened his eyes briefly.
“It was days before Jamie opened his eyes again – October 20th. From this point things started to improve with Jamie following orders off the doctors and nurses to nod, open his eyes and to put out his tongue.
“This was a fantastic step forward in his recovery. I drove to Hull Royal every single day apart from one day when my car broke down half-way to Hull. I had to get the car recovered to Scarborough where my regular garage worked on my car and fixed it for the next day.
“It is hard to explain but I felt so guilty not being able to see my son when I felt he needed me. It was strange how much I missed him for that one day.
“The medical staff at Hull were absolutely amazing and had saved my son’s life numerous times and I couldn’t thank them enough. The doctors told me that they had done all they could at Hull and Jamie was to be transferred to Scarborough Hospital on 3 November.
“There was a massive drawback to this move as I was unable to visit Jamie due to Covid on the ward.
“Thankfully after only four days in Scarborough, the doctors realised that Jamie was still in need of specialist treatment and he was transferred to York Hospital on 7 November and the bonus was that I could start to visit my son again.
“York Hospital also allowed Brenda to visit Jamie and she was absolutely thrilled to be able to see her son at last, but Jamie’s sister Michelle was still not allowed to visit.
“I had to forewarn Brenda that she would probably be shocked seeing her son with half his skull missing and having had a tracheostomy fitted.
“She told me that she had managed to keep it together during that first visit but had broken down when she had left.
“At this point Jamie was still not fully awake due to the amount of medication that he was on.
“For both of us it was magical when he was opening his eyes briefly and he knew that we were there for him.
“Jamie was improving every day and on 9 December Jamie was fully awake and had the tracheostomy removed and was actually talking.
“It was amazing how quickly Jamie had improved.
“It wasn’t long before Jamie was on soft foods and then subsequently normal food.
“From day one Jamie had to be fed via a tube in his nose down into his stomach, so this was another giant step forward.
“He improved that much that the staff would put Jamie into a wheelchair, and I was able to take him off the ward and go for a walk outside.
“You could see in his face how good this was for his mental wellbeing and, indeed, on the 20th of January 2022, Jamie was transferred to the Woodlands Neurological Rehabilitation Centre in York.
“At last, I felt that we had turned a corner in Jamie’s recovery and the constant feeling of dread was slowly slipping away.
“Jamie still has a long way to go, and we still don’t know if he will make a full recovery or have side any effects.
“Thanks to the dedication of staff at both Hull and York hospitals, we still have our son, and we can face the future and cross any bridges as problems occur.
“As I knew that this was going to be a long haul, I have taken note of the mileage and cost of the travel which is to date 9th February 2022: 9,200 miles at a cost in fuel of £1,200.
“I strongly feel that the person who has caused the heartache this family has gone through for so long should be made aware of this.
“In conclusion, I feel that everyone should be made aware of exactly where Jamie is on his struggle for recovery.
“Jamie still cannot get out of bed and into the wheelchair by himself.
“He still cannot dress or shower himself and go to the toilet himself.
“It is very hard to accept for Jamie as he is a proud man and desperate for independence.
“The injury to Jamie’s brain has resulted in his body being racked with severe shakes, so much so that he cannot feed himself without his meal being thrown off the fork or spoon.
“I have also had to purchase special cups to allow Jamie to have a drink without soaking his clothes.
“The hospital disabled cups were not suitable as the contents were still being thrown all over as his shakes are that severe.
“He also cannot grip anything and is constantly dropping things.
“At times Jamie gets very confused. His eyes have been severely affected and are now in the corner of the eye socket.
“Jamie is not able to focus on anything and is now suffering severe double vision.
“Jamie’s skull flap has still not been replaced and doctors can’t say when it can be fitted.
“It is also possible that it can’t be replaced, and he might have to have a titanium plate fitted instead.
“With no skull flap to hold it, Jamie’s scalp has dropped that much half of his head is missing.
He now has to wear a special padded cap whenever he is moved.
“Myself and Jamie’s mam Brenda, sister Michelle and the rest of our family, will be eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses of the National Health Service for saving his life on many occasions.
“It is heart-breaking to see my son struggle so hard to have some quality of life and, indeed, we don’t know what the extent of his recovery will be.
“What we do know is that Jamie will have to live with this for the rest of his life, as will we.
“Although the person who assaulted Jamie has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, Jamie’s injuries are no less, and I pray that the justice system will take this into account.”
On a happier note, Jamie has recently undergone surgery to put a titanium plate in his head (see photographs above) to fill the gap where doctors removed part of his skull due to severe brain swelling.
The campaign is initially targeting men aged 18 to 35 at pubs, bars, gyms and sports clubs over the summer holidays, and again during the festive period.
Then in September, coinciding with One Punch Awareness Week between 18 and 22 September, there will also focus on secondary school children.