Published: 12:26, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 15:57, 31 October 2021
A mother has sworn she will never let her daughter visit Maidstone again after the 12-year-old and her two friends were assaulted by a gang of youths.
The three girls – two aged 12 and one aged 13 and all from out of town – had just been to McDonald's in Week Street when the attack happened.
They were sitting outside with their drinks when they were approached by about half a dozen youngsters, who for no reason began striking them with the protective sponge tubing they had taken from nearby scaffolding poles.
The youths then grabbed a cap from one of the girls and demanded £5 from her to give it back. She paid up and he spat in it before handing it over.
The intimidation then got worse and the crowd of tormentors grew to around 25, both boys and girls, aged 13 to 16, who began swearing at their victims and pushing and shoving them.
The mother of one of the victims described what happened next. She said: "The girls tried to walk away but they were surrounded and corralled towards Brenchley Gardens.
"Once in the park, they were attacked, both together and individually."
"They were pushed, hit, deliberately tripped over and had things like silver nitrous oxide cannisters thrown at their faces.
"The youths seemed to want to provoke a reaction, they wanted a fight, but all three girls are very quiet and submissive and did not fight back.
"Two of the crowd were filming the whole thing on their mobile phones."
At one stage, the girls were supported by a passer-by, a woman who was four months pregnant, who told the boys to leave the girls alone.
The mum said: "My daughter phoned me and handed the phone to the lady. She told me she would help them and she kindly tried to diffuse the situation and keep the girls safe.
"However, to my horror I then heard the boys threatening her. She told them that she was four months pregnant, at that point I heard them say to her that she should ‘**** off or she would be on the floor like the other girls’.
"Understandably the lady left, but I believe she called the police."
Eventually the girls were able to escape from the park and take refuge in a nearby shop, where they were looked after by staff until the mum arrived.
The mum said: "When I got there, the girls were hysterical, sobbing and crying. There were still some of their attackers hanging around and the shopkeeper let us leave by the back door for safety."
As they drove away, they saw the police had arrived at Brenchley Gardens, though by then the crowd has dispersed.
The mother added: "We stopped and told the two PCSOs what had happened, and they took the cap with the spit in it as evidence."
Subsequently one of the girls was found to have two broken bones in her wrist that required surgery and the insertion of six metal wires.
"My own daughter has ME and this was her first outing for some weeks as she has been unwell," said the mum.
"But after this assault, she has had a relapse and has been unable to get out of bed since."
The mother says she believes the crowd were trying to goad the girls into a fight that they could record and post on social media.
'My own daughter is just a year younger than these girls, and I shudder sometimes to think what might happen to her here.'
She said: "All three are very gentle girls and were very submissive throughout the entire ordeal.
"I am pleased that they did not hit back as I believe that this would have given the crowd the green light to beat them up further."
Trawling social media afterwards, she believes she has found a video posting of one of the girls' attackers assaulting another girl in a different incident.
The mum, who asked not to be named, believes the girls were deliberately led to Brenchley Garden because of the lack of CCTV coverage there.
She has subsequently contacted the council to urge it to instal additional CCTV to protect people.
The gardens have already been the subject of calls for greater CCTV coverage after Maidstone council leader Cllr David Burton spoke of the "darkness lurking in certain parts of Maidstone" and the need to reclaim such areas for the ordinary public.
In the meantime, the mother said: "I'm spreading the word to all our friends, don't go to Maidstone, it's not safe."
The deputy leader of Maidstone council Cllr Jonathan Purle walks through Brenchley Gardens every day on his way to work from his home nearby.
He said: "I wish I could say I was shocked by this incident, but given the way things have gone in recent years, I am afraid to say that I am not shocked and must limit myself to saying how appalled I am instead.
"My own daughter is just a year younger than these girls, and I shudder sometimes to think what might happen to her here."
He said: "I should be allowing her to walk home from school on her own, but I won't."
Cllr Purle said that doing something about the high level of anti-social and criminal behaviour was high on the council's agenda, and said there was cross-party support for tougher action.
He said: "We are expecting a report from officers on November 30 on what actions might be taken to make the park safer, and among the things we have asked them to look at is more CCTV, better lighting and locking the park at night."
Ch Insp Gary Woodward, Kent Police’s District Commander for Maidstone, said: "Our officers work in close partnership with a number of agencies to ensure Maidstone remains a safe town for residents and visitors to enjoy.
"The levels of disorder we see in Maidstone are not dissimilar to what can be observed in other large towns, but we will always take the view that one crime is one crime too many. "
"To combat this, we regularly patrol high footfall areas and routinely share information with partner agencies to ensure crime is prevented and incidents are quickly responded to."
"When we received a report of three girls being assaulted in Brenchley Gardens, at around 3pm on October 26, we quickly deployed to the scene and seized available evidence.
"One of the girls did require hospital treatment and we will seek to provide her with the best possible support.
"Numerous further inquiries to identify the suspects, who are understood to be boys and girls of a similar age, are under way.
"We will continue to follow every reasonable line of inquiry and seek to take the most robust, and proportionate, action when a suspect is identified."
On Friday, police said they had arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with the attack. He was released on bail until November 23.
Inquiries to identify other potential offenders continue.
If anyone has information that can help the investigation, they should call police on 01622 604100, quoting reference number 46/216477/21.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.