Published: 20:43, 13 July 2021
| Updated: 20:45, 13 July 2021
The final gang member involved in the racist attack which left Daniel Ezzedine brain damaged has avoided jail today.
Leon Thurston, 19, helped “set the tone” for the brawl which changed Daniel’s life, where he was hit with a heavy loaded bag in the face and, after falling unconscious, kicked full force in the head.
The German student has been rendered disabled, unable to speak or read, requiring around-the-clock care after Thurston and nine others hunted his group in Canterbury city centre in June 2019.
Thurston, 17 at the time of attack, with other gang members tormented Daniel and his friends in the Whitefriar’s KFC days before the attack, lawyers explained.
“It really set the tone for the events a couple of days later,” prosecutor Craig Evans said.
Before the Canterbury gang set about Daniel’s group in Rose Lane, Thurston armed himself with screwdrivers stolen from Poundland.
He then launched into a flurry of violence as a brawl unfolded in front of horrified onlookers, Canterbury Crown Court heard.
Jack Barron swung a shoulder bag loaded bricks into Daniel’s face as Luke Fogarolli, 18, took a running kick at his unconscious victim’s head.
Both were jailed last year for grievous bodily harm with intent.
As Daniel lay motionless, Thurston and others fled towards his home to change their clothes boasting and jeering over the fight, prompting a judge to say it demonstrated: “How warped, immature and indeed stupid you all where.”
Handing down a suspended sentence in a Young Offenders Institute, Judge Simon James added: “Daniel Ezzedine was a young man with his whole life ahead of him.
“He left not with the expected life enhancing experience but a life threatening and life changing brain injury, from which he is likely to never recover.”
Mitigating, David Osborne said: “It goes without saying it was a highly alarming street fight involving large numbers of young people.
“Leon Thurston was horrified to find out the extent of (Daniel’s) injury and he and his family were understandably scared… to defend a case where he was not personally responsible for the injury.”
He added Thurston became involved in the violence to appear tough in front of the friends he was “too easily influenced by.”
Thurston, previously from Canterbury but now living in Dubai, spoke only to confirm guilty pleas to violent disorder and shoplifting.
He was sentenced to 18-months in a Young Offenders Institute suspended for two years.
Phenomenal generosity of KentOnline readers
Almost £15,000 has been donated to the family of Daniel Ezzedine after KentOnline launched an appeal to help pay for his continued care.
His family ran up huge debts during his year-long stay in a London hospital after the attack in June 2019, and continue to experience financial troubles during Daniel's ongoing care.
The teenager - now 19 and unable to walk or talk - lives in a flat too small for a wheelchair so his family have to push him around on an office chair.
One of Daniel’s older brothers, Samer Ezzedine, says the funds will be “a great help”.
“The donation helps us in many areas,” he said.
“Firstly we still have many debts because of the stay in London and also in the early days in Germany.
“Thanks to the current donation we can use a part of it to pay off some of our debts.
“There are also some therapies we have to pay ourselves.
“What is left we [will invest in] therapies with the goal that Daniel learns his lost skills again.”
Samer says his family is touched to know Daniel remains in the thoughts of so many Canterbury residents, two years after the attack.
“We really thank all those who have not forgotten Daniel and continue to support us," he said.
Kentish Gazette editor Joe Walker said: "While nothing can change the fact the future Daniel deserved has been snatched from him by these young thugs, we hope the money donated will help them as they attempt to rebuild his and their lives.
"We're incredibly grateful for everyone who contributed."