Our life sentence as husband and father is brain-damaged for life but the yob who kicked him in the head is already free Taken from the Daily Mail 19th February 2008 Marion Ingrouille was making spaghetti carbonara for her family that sunny summer evening in July 2002. Within the hour, her life changed for ever. Her husband Christopher and two young sons had just returned from a cycle ride in the park near their house in Essex, when Christopher said he was popping out again but would be back shortly so they could eat together. Yet he never returned. Even as Marion stirred the sauce and set the table, just around the corner Christopher was being savagely beaten by three drunken youths. Two of the trio had sworn at him and his sons when the family had passed them a few minutes earlier. Now, coming across the yobs again Christopher perfectly politely told them they should not have used foul language to his children. Their response, after being joined by another lad, was to launch an attack which culminated in Christopher's head being kicked over and over again - 32 times, in fact - until his brain was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed. Today, nearly six years on, and nearing 50, Christopher is little more than a human vegetable, cared for in a nursing home - just another victim of a horrifying, mindless drunken attack. In the past couple of weeks, a series of similarly savage drunken assaults have sparked a national debate on binge drinking, and exactly how and why these attacks have become so common. There was Joe Dinsdale, the 17-year-old stabbed to death on a crime-ridden housing estate, and law graduate David Burns, fighting for his life after being beaten by a teenage gang in the street. Just over a week ago, Gareth Avery was kicked and left for dead after politely asking a young passer-by to stop urinating in his garden, and last month three teenagers were found guilty of murder after punching and kicking to death father-of-three Garry Newlove when he had remonstrated with them over the vandalism of cars in his road. The story of Christopher Ingrouille, however, is a chilling illustration of just how much a family continues to suffer years after the story has been forgotten and the media caravan has moved on. Today, he cannot even recognise Marion as his wife when she visits regularly to cut his hair or put up a new family picture in his room. He is fed raspberry-coloured medicine, with liquid nourishment and water through a plastic stomach tube. Doubly incontinent, every morning his rag-doll body is lifted from bed to wheelchair by nurses using a large hoist. Occasionally, he screams out in pain as if the feeding tubes are hurting his stomach. He cannot speak or communicate, and when he becomes agitated he spits at visitors, including his own sons. By any standards he is enduring a life sentence. Such is the sophistication of modern medicine and the quality of his 24-hour nursing that he will probably live like this for many years to come. He cannot swallow. The only limb he can make work is his left hand, which he lifts very slowly to scratch his head. And what of his teenage attackers - does the severity of their punishment go some way to alleviate the tragedy of the family they so clinically destroyed? In fact, the Mail has learned, one of the three, Paul Ashman, is already out of jail. He was freed last year, after serving a little more than half of the original seven-year sentence he was given for grievous bodily harm with intent. Even before then, in 2006, just three years after the 18-year-old was found guilty at London's Old Bailey, he was allowed to leave prison for weekend outings, attending family birthday parties near his home in Silvertown, East London. The other two attackers, Chad Patterson and Kevin Wakeling, also 18 at the time of sentencing, are likely to be paroled from jail within the next two years. Disturbingly, they attacked Christopher while out of prison under licence following a vicious mugging, when a man's face was burned, and a robbery. They were given 14 and 11 years respectively for the attempted murder of Christopher at the 2003 trial, an attack which the judge described as "savage". It was nothing more than mischance that Christopher, an electrician who married Marion 23 years ago, crossed their path that day, but it was an encounter which has derailed his future, and that of his wife and sons, for ever. Ashman and Wakeling first confronted him and his sons in an alleyway as they neared home on their way back from the park, just before tea time. Christopher, known for his politeness, told the children to dismount from their bikes to avoid some broken glass in the alley and to get safely past the pair. As they did so, Ashman and Wakeling hurled foul-mouthed insults. Christopher made no mention to his wife of the incident when he brought Robert and Philip back to the family's semi-detached house in a quiet suburban street nearby. But shortly afterwards, he said he was popping out "for five minutes". He was carrying a blue plastic bag to pick up the glass from the alley, which is beside an arcade of shops a few yards from their home. The Old Bailey heard how Christopher once more encountered Ashman and Wakeling, and this time told them off for the way they had sworn in front of his sons. An argument followed, but the youths appeared to calm down when Christopher offered to shake their hands. He walked away but, at that moment, their friend Chad Patterson turned up. At the command of one of the other two, he hit Christopher, and the appalling beating began. Back home, Marion was preparing supper. "By the time dinner was ready, there was still no sign of Chris," she says. "I began to eat my meal and then I saw a policeman through the net curtains coming to our door." The officer told Marion there had been a vicious assault just around the corner. Had she seen anything suspicious? "I said there were often youths over by the pub," she says. "I asked if it was my husband, but the policeman said the victim was in his late 20s or early 30s. "Christopher was 43, so I thought it couldn't possibly be him. I finished my meal. "When the police officer came back a few minutes later, my heart completely failed me. "He asked me what Chris had been wearing, and I said jeans and a black sports top. The policeman immediately said it was him." For Marion, it was the moment normality ended. From July to September 2002, Christopher was in a deep coma. "When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn't recognise Chris," she says. "His head was the size of a big balloon. Both ears were black. His eyeballs were red jelly. "I had to identify him by his chest hair and his key ring that was a memento of a holiday in San Francisco." In October of that year Christopher started to have epileptic fits, and in December, as the swelling subsided, doctors discovered part of his brain was so badly damaged it had withered away. "During the first days, I kept thinking: 'Perhaps he will wake tomorrow'," Marion recalls. "But when the boys went back to school in the autumn - two months after the attack - Christopher still hadn't come out of the coma. "I kept an album of the children's sports day in late July, a diary of his visitors and all his Christmas cards to show him when he woke up. "Now I know they're useless, he will never be able to understand," she says. "At first, the hospital staff said he might never walk again, then that Chris might never come home again. "I said: 'Basically, you are telling me that these yobs have killed him?' The consultant, the whole medical team, had to agree the answer to that was yes. "I have always told the boys as much as I knew," says Marion, 40. "Philip kept asking: 'Why can't Daddy talk?' I told him that these teenagers had really, really hurt Chris. "After nearly a year I had to say that Daddy would never take them on a bike ride again. "The tragedy for Chris is that he could exist, and I use that word deliberately, for a very long time. "Philip, our younger son, has said that when he learns to drive in six years' time he will be able to visit his Dad in hospital on his own. How terribly sad is that?" The boys, now 16 and 11, can still remember that afternoon. Robert, who starts college this autumn, will not talk about it. Philip blames himself for asking his father to take him out cycling. "At first, Philip would not even look at Chris - he could not bear it," says Marion. "He would just cuddle into me. Now Robert won't kiss Chris, he just says hello and goodbye and sometimes cannot bear to go into the hospital. "One of the most heartbreaking aspects of all this is that all their memories will be of their Dad in hospital, unable to talk properly and dribbling." In contrast, Paul Ashman - known as Dinky by friends on the shabby estate near London's City Airport where he was brought up - is now free after only a few years in jail, and looking forward to a fresh start. His mother Carol refused to comment to the Mail about her son's quick release or the original attack, but a neighbour said: "Paul's been out for several months now and we see him at his Mum's. "He just wants to be left alone and get on with his life." If only the Ingrouille family could do the same. No wonder that Marion believes she is witnessing a travesty of justice. This week, she spoke for the first time about the "cruel and lopsided" system which appeases young thugs and ignores their innocent victims. It is hard for her to talk about it. She tries not to read the newspaper stories or watch the television news items that report the rising toll of deaths from drunken teenage street attacks in Britain. It is, she says, too painful to read the details, which remind her of Christopher's tragedy. "The do-gooders - many encouraged by today's politicians - are doing nothing to frighten off the sort of thugs who left Christopher with his heart beating, but not really alive. "Even ten years ago it was different. We still believed that out in the streets you wouldn't get mugged by gangs of youngsters who you didn't know from Adam. "Now, the teenagers who strut about with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other are afraid of no one. I see them every day outside the pubs wherever I go. "Helen Newlove, the widow of Garry Newlove, who was beaten to death outside his home in Warrington, has called for a return to capital punishment in this country. "I agree with her, and so do thousands of other ordinary people who are sick and frightened of what is happening." Marion is not a political animal. But she has a reason to be angry. She says: "I sat there, day after day, at the Old Bailey trial. It was all about the rights of Ashman, Wakeling and Patterson. "The excuses given by the three teenagers and their legal team for why they had attacked Christopher, leaving him almost dead, were astonishing. "One said he had eczema; another had been brought up by his grandmother. Yet the court took them seriously. "Meanwhile, their friends in the public gallery were waving at them in the dock, and one of the gang's relatives was told to leave by the judge for swearing continually "Wakeling, Patterson and Ashman even laughed and joked in court, just as they did after they left Chris all but dying in the street. "I think they deliberately went for his head. I hate them for what they did and I am so angry that they are not being properly punished for their crime. "It's so distressing to think that they were so unconcerned about what they had done that afterwards they went to the local tube and chatted up girls, talking on mobile phones they had stolen earlier that day and boasting about the blood - Chris's blood - on their clothes. They just didn't care." The three were brought to trial after the arrest of Ashman and Wakeling on the evening of the attack. A neighbour of Marion's identified the pair as the culprits. Patterson had run away, went into hiding and was found by police ten days later. Marion was given a police liaison officer with whom she has kept in touch. He has kept her informed about the likely release dates of the two who remain behind bars, and how all three were treated in prison. "I know that very soon after they went to jail, Paul Ashman asked permission to be let out for his sister's birthday. "It was in the summer two years ago, and the birthday was on the same date as he and the others kicked my husband's head to a pulp. "How dare he? If Ashman had any conscience at all, surely he would have remembered that particular anniversary. "Soon after, he was allowed to leave the prison on weekend breaks. "Before his release, last year, he was even able to go out to work from the prison, travelling alone and by bus." It is too much for Marion. Upset about Ashman and what she believes is the lenient treatment of the other two, she has told the police that she does not want to hear any more about her husband's attackers. "I cannot even bear to think about them when Chris is suffering and in pain. I told the police that I only want to be told when, and if, they die." She admires Christopher for remonstrating with the yobs and not just walking on by. But it has left her with no real husband, her children with no real father. Meanwhile, she knows that the thugs who struck him down so mercilessly have the rest of their lives to enjoy. On a shelf overlooking the sitting room of Marion's home is a picture of Christopher, the father everyone called a gentle man who hated an argument. Tucked in the corner is a card written by his wife, which says: "Keep me in your heart." The catastrophe for Marion is that her husband will never, ever walk through the door, kiss his family and read it.