BASHED FOR HIS TOBACCO
By ANDY PARKS
PETER RYDER was brutally bashed for a pouch of tobacco and half a bottle of sherry.
The 61-year-old is recovering in Lismore Base Hospital from severe bruising to the face and upper body, as well as a fractured nose and rib.
He was first attacked on Christmas Day in the car park near the Lismore Library, where he was struck from behind, bashed and robbed.
On New Year's Eve, he was back in hospital after a second vicious mugging near the Lismore City Hall.
Mr Ryder, who receives a disability support pension and has been sleeping on the streets of Lismore for about the past six months, said he was near the cedar log next to the city hall when the latest bashing occurred.
He was sleeping about 11pm and didn't see his attackers, who took his tobacco and sherry.
Police have called the attack 'cowardly' and are calling for any assistance from the public.
Mr Ryder said his possessions had been taken from him on several occasions while he slept, but he had not had any problems with violence up until now.
"Each time all my personal stuff is taken, my keycard and health care card. The bank doesn't want to give me another keycard now because I've had too many stolen," he said.
Mr Ryder is a regular at the Lismore Soup Kitchen, where he used to work as a volunteer and was on the committee. He also worked four days a week at the Red Dove breakfast kitchen and volunteered for St Vincent de Paul.
"It keeps me occupied," he said of his volunteer work. "But I'm not in a condition to do it now."
Andrew Gray, who was having lunch at the Soup Kitchen on Wednesday, said the attack on Mr Ryder was deplorable.
"He's very frail, but he's a hard old bugger. He often sleeps on benches and under bridges. I don't know how much longer he'll be with us," he said.
A woman at the kitchen, who didn't want to be named, said: "It's disgusting, the poor bugger's got nothing."
Mr Ryder was born at Bangalow in 1946 and lived in Byron Bay when he was younger. He went to school at Marist Brothers, now Trinity Catholic College, Lismore. He worked most of his life travelling around the country as an electrical engineer, installing TV and radio systems in motels and setting up public address systems.
Police have issued a description of Mr Ryder's attackers as 'five or six males of dark appearance, aged in their late teens to early twenties'.
They are requesting assistance from anyone who may have been in the area and witnessed the incident, or are able to provide details of the offenders' identities. In particular, police are interested in hearing from the witness who helped Mr Ryder and alerted the Ambulance Service by calling Lismore detectives on 6626.0599 or Crime Stoppers on 1800.333.000.
Neighbours who live across the road from the scene of the latest attack said that people often gathered in the park, around the big log, for drinking sessions.
"There's a few of them, sometimes sleeping there. But they're never noisy or rowdy," said one neighbour, who didn't wish to be named.