Stuart used to choose a place to sleep on the street by making sure there were security cameras overhead, for his safety, but on Anzac Day last year, he was the victim of an unprovoked assault that almost cost him his life.
“I was sleeping near cameras, so if anyone robbed me, they would get caught on camera,” said Stuart, who did not want his surname published.
The 41-year-old, who has a mild intellectual disability, was attacked while walking near the foreshore in Geraldton, in West Australia’s Mid West.
Perth District Court was told that Aaron Leigh Ormerod, who had been drinking most of the day, emerged with his friends from a bottle shop and saw Stuart pushing his trolley along Lester Avenue.
Ormerod wrongly accused Stuart of stealing and tried to snatch his bag then repeatedly bashed him and threw him on to the road.
A driver, unable to stop in time, then drove over Stuart.
He was trapped under the vehicle and suffered bleeding on his brain, fractures to his spine, pelvis, ribs and face, as well as a punctured lung.
As Stuart was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital’s trauma unit, Ormerod drove out of Geraldton with his friend.
He was arrested early the next morning heading to Perth.
“I was in a coma for four days. My eyes were shut all day, all night,” Stuart said.
He is now walking again but only after months of rehabilitation.
‘A brutal, cowardly attack’
Ormerod was last month sentenced to four years and two months’ jail after pleading guilty to: “with intent to harm, unlawfully did an act as a result of which the life, health or safety of a person was endangered”.
District Court Judge John Staude told Ormerod it had been a “brutal and cowardly attack upon an innocent man who had caused you no harm”.
“Your offending is also aggravated by your leaving the scene of the offence knowing that [your victim] had been run over and was likely to be injured,” Judge Staude said.
Judge Staude reviewed CCTV footage from the area before sentencing Ormerod.
He accepted the 37-year-old was remorseful and discounted his sentence by 20 per cent due to his plea of guilty.
Stuart told the ABC he had been expecting Ormerod to be jailed for closer to the maximum term of 20 years.
“He should not have done it to me,” Stuart said.
No longer living on the streets
Stuart now lives in residential care in Perth and, with a roof over his head and walls around him, he said he feels “safe”.
Both men had previously struggled with drug use.
The District Court was told Ormerod had used cannabis from the age of 13 and by 15 was using methamphetamines intravenously.
He stopped using the drug just three months before attacking Stuart and on the night claimed he “snapped”.
Stuart tried to hold onto his bag, one of his few possessions, but did not fight back.
Judge Staude noted he had been “particularly vulnerable by reason of his pre-existing disabilities and isolation”.
Stuart said he felt safer now with housemates he trusted.