A TEENAGER who callously kicked a 74-year-old man into the Mersey in an unprovoked assault and ran away laughing has been jailed.

Benjamin Bridgeman was responsible for the shocking attack on the pensioner along a stretch of the river in Howley back in April.

The incident caused widespread uproar in Warrington and further afield, as the victim could have easily been overcome by the fast-flowing river had it not been for the actions of two passing schoolgirls.

Ellie Hughes and Khloe Woods, both 14, formed a human chain in order to rescue the elderly gentleman, who walked home to his family soaking wet and shivering and reported the assault to the police.

A 16-year-old boy who filmed the attack on his mobile phone and uploaded the footage on Snapchat, who cannot be named for legal reasons, walked free from court last week after admitting a joint enterprise assault.

Despite being told he was lucky not to be facing a manslaughter charge, he was handed a 12-month youth referral order.

Bridgeman, 19 and of Quebec Road in Orford, appeared at Warrington Magistrates’ Court to be sentenced this afternoon, Thursday, after pleading guilty to a charge of assault by beating at an earlier hearing.

Here, wearing black tracksuit pants and a grey jumper, he was jailed for 10 weeks.

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Angela Blackmore, prosecuting, explained to the court how the pensioner was attacked as he stood on the banks of the water near to Riverside Retail Park, opposite an area known as Monkey Island, at around 2.30pm on Sunday, April 25.

Minding his own business enjoying magnet fishing, a beloved hobby of his, he was hit with a sickening fly-kick to his back, with the perpetrator running away laughing.

Footage of the incident captured by the 16-year-old was played in the court room, showing the pensioner careering into the river.

As a result, he banged his head, for which he suffered a cut to side of his nose.

He had been wearing a puffer jacket at the time of the attack – a coat which quickly filled up with water and left him struggling to breathe or exit the fast-flowing river.

The court heard how he was not a strong swimmer and how he was ‘just about managing to keep his head above water’ before he was rescued by the two good Samaritans.

He was in the water for a couple of minutes and was said to be ‘very upset and shocked’ after being rescued.

Warrington Guardian: Benjamin Bridgeman outside Warrington Magistrates' Court after an earlier hearingBenjamin Bridgeman outside Warrington Magistrates' Court after an earlier hearing

Not wanting to make a fuss, he declined offers to call and ambulance, went home and told his wife that he had fallen in as he did not want to upset her. It was only later that he revealed he had been pushed.

Bridgeman handed himself in at a police station following a public appeal for information over the disgraceful assault.

In a written statement read out in court, he said he had been ‘incredibly stupid, was remorseful and was very sorry’.

An impact statement prepared by the victim’s wife was also read out in court.

She said: “Since the incident, I have seen a marked decline in my husband’s mental health. He is refusing any help. He is very confused and forgetful.”

She went on to say: “He is not sleeping properly and is confused and dazed in the evening times.

“He has lost all faith in the system after seeing the footage.”

Warrington Guardian: Warrington Magistrates' CourtWarrington Magistrates' Court

She described how his behaviour changed during lockdown, refusing to go for walks along the river or riding his bike to see the birds in fear such an attack would happen again.

“He believes he is lucky to be alive, and if the schoolgirls had not been there, he believes he would have drowned,” she continued. “This will impact him for the rest of his life.”

As well as suffering the physical and emotional effects of the attack, the victim also lost a sentimental silver dollar pendant attached to his keyring – a keepsake from his dad, who he never knew.

Several well-wishers scoured the Mersey in the days following the incident in an attempt to recover it, and one successfully pulled the memento from the water using a magnet.

Ms Blackmore revealed to the court that Bridgeman had a number of youth convictions, the last of which was criminal damage in December 2019, which saw him given a conditional discharge.

Mark Lever, defending, said: “I have spent some time with the defendant, and he accepts his actions were despicable, stupid, reckless and dangerous.

“It could have had a very serious outcome, and he knows that. He offered an apology at the police station in a written statement.”

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He added that his client was diagnosed with ADHD and has a ‘much younger mental age than his physical age’.

District judge Nicholas Sanders revealed that Bridgeman chose not to engage with the probation service, putting the phone down on them.

Before sentencing, he said: “You pleaded guilty to this matter, a very serious offence.

“I have seen the sickening video, in which you ran away leaving him struggling in the water.

“It clearly had a massive effect on the victim. It was not reckless, but a deliberate act, that is quite clear.

“It is clear the matter crosses the custody threshold, and I am not going to suspend it as you had no inclination to cooperate.”

After passing his sentence of 10 weeks in prison and £500 in compensation, district judge Sanders added: “Considerable credit to the young schoolgirls who rescued the victim in this case from potentially something a lot more serious, and the person who recovered his sentimental items.

“They get the credit, you do not.”

Warrington Guardian: The sentimental pendant lost in the attack was recovered afterwardsThe sentimental pendant lost in the attack was recovered afterwards

Inspector Daniel Haddock welcomed Bridgeman's sentencing.

He said: "This was a disgraceful act which not only shocked the local community but the nation.

"What the pair saw as funny could have cost this man his life.

"They have also taken away what was once a favourite and enjoyable place for him to go fishing.

"It is pure luck that two teenage girls were walking past at the time and saw him in the water.

"Without a second thought, they came to his aid and pulled him to safety.

"It is their actions that restore our faith in humanity.

"At the time, our appeal for information generated an overwhelming amount of support from the public which we are grateful for.

"It meant they had no choice but to hand themselves into the police and admit to what they had done.

"I know how much of an impact this has had on the gentleman - I only hope the support from the community, and knowing those responsible have been punished for what they did, helps him to feel comfortable to one day return to his favourite place."

Warrington Guardian: Ellie Hughes and Khloe Woods were praised for their actions in rescuing the manEllie Hughes and Khloe Woods were praised for their actions in rescuing the man

Prosecutor Blackmore, representing Crown Prosecution Service Mersey Cheshire, said after the hearing she hoped the sentence is of some help to victim.

She commented: “This was an entirely motiveless attack on a man who was on his own, elderly and vulnerable.

“He had simply been enjoying a day’s fishing by the banks of the River Mersey. He was attacked by someone who is still a teenager, in a reckless and deliberate way.

“Bridgeman had a child with him too, who also became involved. Both of the defendants had apparently no thought for the seriousness of what they were doing. The victim could have drowned.

“The 16-year-old made matters worse by filming the incident, putting it on Snapchat and laughing about it. The victim has been left badly shaken up by this.

“The early guilty pleas by the boys are welcome, but why they chose to do this in the first place is a mystery.

“The Crown Prosecution Service would like to thank the witnesses in this case for their help in bringing this prosecution. We hope the successful end to this case is of some help to the victim.”