A father is fighting for his life after reportedly being attacked for trying to protect his 11-year-old son from bullies.
Alan Willson was airlifted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton following the attack in Whitebeam Road, Durrington, just before 7:30pm on Easter Sunday.
He is believed to have been assaulted in nearby Longcroft Park.
A police spokesperson described Mr Willson as being in a “life threatening condition”.
It is understood that he has undergone brain surgery following the attack which left him with fractures and multiple bleeds, The Sun reports.
Arrested on suspicion of attempted murder
Sussex Police have arrested four boys on suspicion of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent. They have been released on bail with conditions while police enquiries continue.
A spokesperson said: “Police attended the scene and after carrying out a number of fast time enquiries, arrested four males in connection with the assault.
“It is thought that the victim was assaulted by a group of four teenage boys.
“Those arrested have been released on bail with strict conditions while police continue their enquiries.
“These conditions include curfews, staying at a given address and not associating with each other.”
It was confirmed on Tuesday (6 April), according to the Worthing Herald, that a fifth boy was also arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. He has also been released on bail with strict conditions.
‘Keen to hear from anyone who has information’
The police have said that they are treating the attack as an isolated incident, and that officers will be conducting increased regular high-visibility patrols in the area in order to provide reassurances to the community - and to identify and deter any further criminal behaviour.
Detective Inspector Simon Dunn, who is leading the investigation, said: “The assault and the build up to it occurred in a public park in daylight, so it was likely that other people would have witnessed the assault or the suspects running from the scene.
“I am keen to hear from anyone who has information but is yet to come forward.”
Members of the public can get in touch with the police in regards to the incident by calling 101 and quoting Operation Swallowtail.
Alternatively, you can pass on information anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111.
‘Thank you so much everyone’
In wake of the attack, the community has rallied around the family with love and support.
Alan’s daughter, Becky Willson, wrote on Facebook: “Words cannot describe how grateful I am of how much has been given to help my mum and family out at this time.
“I’m so shocked - this will help my mum out so much while my dad is in hospital - thank you so so much everyone xxxx”
Two crowdfunding pages have been set up to help Alan’s family - a GoFundMe page set up by Rhiann Wiseman, which has raised more than £1,820, and a JustGiving page set up by Cheryl Edwards and Tara Hobden which has reached more than £21,184.
Becky added: “Thank you so much to everyone who has made a donation. I wish he could know how much love and support there has been for him and his family - I know he would be so grateful.”