Father's anguish over loss of life
“HIS smile lit any room and happiness prevailed in his company.
“We have an abundance of wonderful memories to treasure – but that is not what we wanted. We wanted Colm.”
JOHN KENNY, the devastated father of Colm Kenny, the Irish traveller whose vibrant life ended on a Byron Bay street, spoke these words in the silence of a Lismore courtroom as he faced Samuel Buultjens, the Newrybar man who pleaded guilty to assaulting his son with a punch to the chin, but who was not ultimately held responsible for his death.
Yet to all involved it was a needless death that can be attributed to the alcohol-fuelled violence that infects Byron’s streets, hotels and clubs.
Colm Kenny died enjoying the buzz and beach reputation of the international party town of Byron Bay that entices tens of thousands of young backpackers and others each year.
Tweed-Byron senior police officer Detective Gary Sheehan all too frequently sees the bloody end result of alcohol and violence mixing on Byron’s streets. It’s a dangerous blend that can turn them into a battlefield with drunken, brutal attacks, blindly thrown punches, and verbal and physical clashes that send a stream of casualties into emergency at the Byron Bay Hospital, or further afield for the more seriously wounded.
Even the Crown prosecutor in the Buultjens case this week got stuck into the violence that pervades the town, as did Buultjens’ mother Melinda, who was horrified by the amount of alcohol her son drank before he chased and punched the Irish engineer.
Det Sheehan said people go to Byron Bay, take on board way too much alcohol, and then fail to follow basic human values by failing to respect the town and other people.
“Backpackers come here to party and mix with the locals who like toenjoy their weekends too,” Det Sheehan said. “There is also an undercurrent of younger locals who resent the fact so many tourists visit their town.
“They sometimes believe they can take matters into their own hands and use violence towards visitors to protect what they see as their own turf.
“Alcohol-related crime plays amajor role in Byron, especially late at night.
“It is my experience alcohol isinvolved in more crimes now. It hasescalated in street offences and serious assaults that can result in death. When a person’s judgement isaffected by alcohol they do things they otherwise would not do.”