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Sunny Coster, of Scott Road, Tonbridge, jailed for attacking customer at the Station House pub in Tonbridge

A man celebrating his birthday was knocked unconscious and left with a brain injury when he was viciously attacked by a yob wielding two half-pint beer glasses.

Wayne Birkby was struck as many as 12 times in rapid succession to the head, face and neck by Sunny Coster at the Station House pub in Tonbridge.

Sunny Coster has been sentenced to four years and nine months’ imprisonment. Picture: Kent Police
Sunny Coster has been sentenced to four years and nine months’ imprisonment. Picture: Kent Police

Shocking CCTV captured the armed 21-year-old creeping up behind Mr Birkby and lashing out without warning or any provocation, leaving him bleeding and slumped motionless on the floor.

His injuries included broken teeth, a fractured rib, a 2-3cm hole in his lip, a black eye and sight problems, and a bleed on the brain.

But although he remembered nothing of Coster's mindless thuggery, Maidstone Crown Court heard that a DJ working in the pub saw him hitting out "with such ferocity" that he thought the victim would be killed.

Violence flared following a minor confrontation between Mr Birkby and Coster's brother, Judd, inside the Barden Road venue.

Sunny Coster - who had been sitting in the beer garden - grabbed the two glasses from a table and, with one in each hand, went inside and carried out his "cowardly and appalling" attack.

At the time of the assault on Saturday, December 3, 2022, the Tonbridge resident had already racked up six convictions for eight offences of violence and was subject to a suspended sentence.

He also fled the pub and was not arrested by police for almost three months.

Coster, now 23 and of Scott Road, later admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

In two statements read to the court at his sentencing hearing on Wednesday (April 10), Mr Birkby explained that having worked in the security industry for many years he was trained to deal with violence.

But he described how he was left so affected by Coster's onslaught that night that even watching a favourite John Wayne film triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I went out for a drink with my friend. We had a nice evening, celebrating his passing an assessment for his new job and my birthday," wrote Mr Birkby.

"I never realised it would shatter my world so completely and utterly. I think I will never be the same again."

The court heard that in the build-up to the attack, Judd Coster had been "eyeballing" Mr Birkby throughout the evening.

Prosecutor James Benson said there was then a minor confrontation between the pair, leading to Mr Coster and his friends being "encouraged" outside by the bouncer.

"It is apparent from the CCTV that some verbal sparring and gesticulating continued between them and Mr Birkby who remained inside," Mr Benson told the court.

"Mr Birkby recalled saying words to the effect of 'Well, if you're going to do something, then just do it' sometime around this point."

The court heard he also took off his cap "as if to prepare for the inevitable confrontation" before Judd Coster, having gone back inside with his friends, took up a boxer's stance.

They were separated however and as Judd Coster was being held back, Mr Birkby then exchanged "one or two half-hearted punches" with another man, added Mr Benson.

It was at that point that Sunny Coster, who had been watching the melee from outside, became involved.

"Once he saw the confrontation, the defendant moved quickly to the nearest table and picked up two half-pint beer glasses," explained the prosecutor.

"He then entered the pub at the point Mr Birkby and the other male were squared up to each other.

"He moved casually past Mr Birkby and then looped around behind him. He approached Mr Birkby from behind and attacked him."

It happened at The Station House pub, in Barden Road, Tonbridge. Picture: Google
It happened at The Station House pub, in Barden Road, Tonbridge. Picture: Google

Having struck him a heavy blow to the head with one glass, causing it to break or come free from his grip, Coster then immediately followed it up with another blow to the head with the glass in his other hand.

With an unconscious Mr Birkby then falling to the floor, the yob rained down a further 10 punches to his head, face and neck.

"The punches were hard and delivered in fairly rapid succession. Mr Birkby had been knocked out by the first blow and was motionless on the floor for these further 10 punches," said Mr Benson.

"He remembered nothing of the attack after scuffling with the male in front of him. In his words 'It all went dark' after he was hit from behind and he woke up in the ambulance.

"He did not know who hit him or with what."

The DJ, Massimo Mazzocca, was said to have had "a clear view" of the attack just a few feet in front of him.

"He described the defendant striking the victim at least 10 times, including with the glass, with such ferocity that he thought he was going to kill him," added the prosecutor.

Mr Birkby's multiple injuries included a dent, rounded like the base of a glass, in the top of his head, and bruising to his neck which was so extensive it gave the appearance he was wearing a polo neck jumper.

Coster was eventually found by police at his girlfriend's home in Burwash, East Sussex, on February 28 last year.

Tom Stern, defending, told the court his client had "historically struggled to express himself" but now recognised he had "some inner issues" and emotions that needed to be managed.

Coster, whose upbringing was said to have "desensitised" him to violence, also wrote a letter to the court, which was welcomed by Judge Shani Barnes.

However, on passing sentence she said that although he had expressed a desire to apologise for his behaviour, the effect on the victim had been "devastating".

In impact statements made in February and April last year, Mr Birkby described how his life had been "ruined" both physically and mentally.

"I'm not afraid of being assaulted, and have been on many occasions in my work and knocked out before. But none have affected me in the way this has," he wrote.

"I feel this comes from the fact I was attacked from behind. I had no idea what was happening.

"One moment I was in the pub having a minor disagreement with a male and next I'm in the ambulance being told I have been seriously injured.

"Then I'm being told that I have a bleed on my brain and to stay still or I could die....I have no idea who attacked me and this is what disturbed me so much."

Mr Birkby said his facial scarring and loss of front teeth made it hard to look in the mirror.

"I feel like curling up in a ball and shutting the whole world out. I joke I look like a toothless junkie but I feel that's how people will judge me," he continued.

"I feel so vulnerable and have never felt like this before....I feel violated, sick, lost and just not me.

"I cannot believe a night out has changed my life so much. I have gone from a happy, confident person to someone who jumps at the slightest thing.

"I'm not a small bloke, I know how to defend myself, I have had training. But you can't defend yourself from someone you don't know or someone who attacks you from behind."

The court heard Mr Birkby lost four stone in weight through stress and eating difficulties, and in April last year still faced the prospect of brain surgery.

He suffered flashbacks and hallucinations and recalled how watching a film he had seen "a hundred times" left him "frozen and unable to breathe" as a fight scene unfolded.

Coster was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court
Coster was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court

Mr Birkby also feared losing the job he loved due to "the slightest thing" triggering his PTSD.

Jailing Coster for four years and nine months, Judge Barnes told him that while she had taken his age and immaturity into account, it was "now time to change" his entrenched behaviour.

"There is no question just what an appalling attack this was. It was the most cowardly kind," she said.

"You approached him from behind, fully armed with a glass in both hands. That was a hugely cowardly act.

"I have heard from him the devastating effect that has had on him and his life. I saw you listen solemnly when that was read out and I have read your letter having reflected on your behaviour and how you want to apologise and wish him a recovery. That is to your credit.

“He continued to rain blows upon the man even when he was lying unconscious…”

"But I have read all about the traumas of your early life, the things that have happened to you as a young man in the environment you have been brought up in.

"Until now you have become desensitised to violence. It has just always been part of your life. That now has to change."

Coster, who thanked the judge after she wished him “good luck”, will have to serve two-thirds before his release.

He also admitted breach of his suspended sentence order imposed for offences of battery and criminal damage, and was given 10 days' imprisonment to be served concurrently.

Leading the investigation was Detective Constable Hayley Campbell, who said: "Coster subjected his victim to a brutal and terrifying assault which could easily have had fatal consequences.

"He continued to rain blows upon the man even when he was lying unconscious.

"It was an entirely unprovoked attack which has had a profound and devastating impact on the victim.

"He has been left suffering several long-term injuries and continues to endure the psychological trauma resulting from this horrific ordeal.

"I’d like to personally thank the victim, for their patience, support and courage in assisting our investigation and hope they are able take some comfort and reassurance now that Coster has now faced justice.

"The staff at the pub are to also be commended, for the swift and vital first aid they provided before paramedics and officers arrived at the scene."

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