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How Much Does It Cost to Save a Life? - Part One

The author is a QUB Pol Sci Honours graduate and has written extensively on imperialism, national liberation struggles and class issues.



The names have been changed to protect the innocent and it's too long ago to name the guilty or the cowards at this point. However, this can be reversed if challenged. These incidents happened from 1994 to 1996. Three people were seriously wounded, one in particular, Gavin, the victim, coming close to death, lying out on a gurney in the Trauma Bay, losing six pints of blood from multiple knife wounds to the throat. The other two, the attackers, were also in Intensive Care being treated for compound fractures and other blunt trauma injuries they received.

Ryan, twho acted as rescuer, was being booked into Belfast RUC (police) serious crime unit, being relieved of his clothes by Serious Crime Squad detectives. At one point they told him during this process that his friend, Gavin, had died on the operating table. Nice, ethical tactics from our very own police 'service'.

Let's return to just a few hours earlier, a time when none of this could ever have been foreseen, the mood was infinitely brighter and the most death-defying activities being indulged in were the cigarettes they all smoked back then as Ryan, Gavin, and another friend, Majella left a pub in the student district of South Belfast. All were students. However, unlike so many other previously hazy nights, this wasn't to be any late-night party. Ryan had planned to go home, play some Playstation games, then bed. Gavin had been hoping to return to Majella's, as was the modus operandi of this 5 ft 4 inch, 7 Stone, prematurely balding/ self-styled Lothario.

None of them were strangers to all-night parties but that night, in particular, was never planned to be one of them. As it turned out, there was to be no romance, no late-night digital dalliances on Playstation and definitely not a pleasant end to a fairly low key night out celebrating majella's birthday.


Walking Home

As the trio left the bar, only ten minutes walk from their respective homes, they would probably have been over the drink-drive threshold, but would not have been fall-down drunk or even close to such. Neither of the three was driving that night, anyway. Ryan, the largest of the three hardly appeared drunk at all. At 15 Stone, close to six foot, and a weightlifter, who worked three or four nights a week in some of the city's busiest nightclubs, he had absorbed the alcohol much better than the other two.

Just as they turned a corner, bringing them just a few minutes from their destinations, Ryan noticed Gavin initiating a 'shouldering' attack on of a couple of people, but as it didn't appear to be a serious incident, he thought no more of it. It was well known among their peers that Gavin, who while alone would've run a mile from a fight, tended to become much more aggressive in Ryan's company, knowing he'd pretty significant 'back-up' if anything kicked off. In fact, Ryan had been approached by friends, many of whom were mutual, warning him that Gavin was known for initiating fights then leaving them swiftly, to let others finish them off.

The Opinel locking knife used to stab Gavin multiple times. He lost 6 pints of blood

The Opinel locking knife used to stab Gavin multiple times. He lost 6 pints of blood

The Attack

The first Ryan knew of the attack, as he walked a little further along with Majella, was Gavin shouting his name, obviously in severe distress. Ryan ran to where he found Gavin being knelt on by on assailant, who was in the process of stabbing him in the neck and body with a wooden handled lock-knife, while his accomplice was kicking him in the head

Thankfully Ryan was able to disarm the first assailant of his lock-knife. Ryan defended himself against the attackers and in the melee they apparently received compound fractures. By this stage, Gavin was bleeding heavily from neck wounds and Ryan managed to half-carry him to Majella's house nearby. Gavin's neck wounds proved difficult to arrest and he appeared to be going into shock, as he'd begun to laugh, as blood pumped steadily from his throat. Majella was hysterical, but some of her housemates managed to get some material that could be used as a pressure dressing.

Thankfully, paramedics and two ambulances turned up and began treating Gavin very quickly and very fortunately. Gavin had asked Ryan to accompany him, on what very well could have been his last journey, anywhere. However, Majella made an emotional scene, demanding to accompany Gavin in the ambulance, despite Gavin's wishes.

By this stage, the RUC had arrived, due to the initial call placed by Majella's housemates. At this point, Ryan relayed to the police present exactly what had just occurred. The police asked Ryan if he could identify the two assailants. Ryan confirmed that he could and willingly agreed to accompany the police on a drive around the neighboring streets, in search of the attackers. As things turned out, taking the police at face vaue was a mistake Ryan should have known better than to make.

The armoured RUC vehicle

The armoured RUC vehicle

From Witness to Accused

With Gavin being whisked away, post-haste, to the city's epicenter of trauma-treatment, nurses, needles and narcotics. Ryan traveled in the RUC armored car, looking out for Gavin's two attackers. Within minutes he spotted them, lurking near a phone booth, quite likely waiting for a taxi cab to whisk them away.

Ryan, on seeing them, exited the police vehicle and pointed the assailants out to those masters of crime detection, who were by now quite adamant that one couldn't simply accuse someone of a crime, that had taken place all of five yards away and at best ten minutes previously, even if they matched the identification descriptions of at least three witnesses. Ryan had the uncommon wit among those who decanted from the police vehicle, that checking the suspects' hands and clothes for bloodstains would be a damn good start to the investigation. The master crime fighters obviously didn't hear Ryan's suggestion, but simultaneously arrived at the same process and eventually arrested the late-night swordfighter and his second, based on their blood-soaked attire.

So, at least the stab-merchants got locked-up and should have been, eventually, facing significant custodial sentences, for an attack that left a man's life hovering between Belfast, Heaven, and Hades.

That should almost have been the close to the story, at least for Ryan, but as it turned out, it would be Ryan's and not Gavin's life, that eventually hung in the balance. As a result of this incident, compounded by the actions of those involved, Ryan stood to lose everything, including a lifetime of liberty!

Part Two of this serialization may explain a little more.

Crime Scene

© 2019 Liam A Ryan

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