Above left: Bridget holds up a photo of her brother and his children. Right: At the site where her brother was found
Above: Gerard Allison at his beloved Highbury Stadium; inset: pictured before the incident with his son
Published: 20 April, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
GERARD Allison was found lying unconscious on a King’s Cross pavement on an August morning in 2004. The schoolboy who found him said others had just walked past the prone figure.
Gerard had been out all night. His shirt was missing and his injuries were so severe he never fully recovered. So badly was his face bruised and swollen, his younger sister Bridget says she didn’t recognise him when she first saw him in the intensive care unit of the UCLH.
Last August, after seven years living in a care home, Gerard – a father of two – died as a result of his injuries.
The police never found out what happened to him and now his family have launched a final appeal to solve the mystery that has haunted them for so long.
Bridget, now 33, who lives in Sebbon Street, says the suspicion has to be that he was beaten up – effectively he was murdered.
Although the doctor at the time said his injuries were of a severity often seen in a car crash, this, she says, was simply to make the family understand.
“There were no tyre marks, no broken glass, no blood stains, nothing,” she says. “And why would anybody take his shirt off? It all points to him being beaten up somewhere and then dumped.”
Gerard was an electrician and always joking, she says. He loved Arsenal and, as the only boy in a family of five, his four sisters tended to spoil him and look up to him. He lived, she says, for his two children, a son and a daughter. He was separated from their mother but would visit them every weekend.
“He was a family man, a happy guy,” Bridget recalls. “He had a small, close-knit group of friends that would meet regularly. His children were five and eight at the time – they’ve never really known their father as the man he was. And he was a huge Arsenal supporter. He was born and bred in Islington – we all were.”
Bridget – who has all the important dates burned into her memory – says it was the evening of August 10 when Gerard, who lived in Pine Street, Clerkenwell, rang a few friends to see if anybody fancied joining him for a pint in a pub in Caledonian Road. No one could make it.
“Other than that we don’t know anything about what happened that night,” Bridget says. “He was found the next morning 100 yards from the pub he said he was going to – at the corner of Keystone Crescent and Caledonian Road. The police came to see my father the next day just saying that Gerard had been attacked. My immediate concern was for my dad, as he had dementia.
“I didn’t think my brother was so badly injured. Then I went to the UCLH. The only reason I knew it was him was because his name was written above his bed. I didn’t recognise him, his face was so badly beaten.”
The doctors said that Gerard, who went to St Aloysius school, was in a vegetative state. He gradually emerged from this and underwent intensive therapy. After a year his medical team judged he had improved as much as he was going to. He lived the rest of his life in a care home in Harrow.
“He had brain damage due to a lack of oxygen,” Bridget explains. “Broken ribs, a fracture to the face. At the time the whole family was focussed on my brother. You go from fearing he might die, to the day he opens his eyes, which is a huge thing. Each little new thing he could do was huge.”
Gerard could never walk again, however. His short-term memory was poor, and he found speaking very difficult.
Bridget is sure he could understand, however, and he had a good memory of what his life was like before the attack. At one point, a year after he was found, he wrote with children’s alphabet blocks that he wanted to die.
“I don’t know if Gerard understood what happened to him,” Bridget says. “He knew what his life had been like before. He knew that he didn’t have the ability to do what he did, to walk the streets and see his children. But he kept asking when he was going home, and I had to say to him that he’d been in an accident.”
The police closed the case after just a year and now say they won’t reopen it unless new evidence comes forward. It is a difficult decision for the family to accept. If Gerard had died in the attack rather than seven years later more resources would have been put into the case.
“It does annoy me because until my brother died had anyone been found for my brother’s attack they would have just been charged with GBH, and it just doesn’t seem enough. Your heart might be pumping but your ability to live if someone does that amount of damage to you – it saddens to me that as a society we’re not able to look at individual cases.”
She adds: “There were no witnesses, no one said they saw him. No one in the pub said he’d been in. I find that hard to believe. I can only think that someone in the pub took a dislike to him – as can happen in that area then.”
To add to the tragedy, Bridget’s mum was in the same hospital as Gerard with her final illness. She died a few months later, never knowing what had happened.
“I couldn’t let my mum and dad see him as he was,” Bridget says.
“But my mother must have died wondering where her son was, why had he not been to see her. My dad died in 2006, 18 months later. I don’t know how we managed to cover it up.”
Gerard died on August 1 last year. He was taken to hospital with a burst appendix. This had made him ill and while in hospital he developed aspirational pneumonia which is caused by poor swallowing function - a symptom of Gerard’s disability. At St Pancras Coroner’s Court the coroner made a point of putting his cause of death down to the injuries he had received seven years earlier.
“If he hadn’t been attacked, if he didn’t have those injuries, there would have been no complications with his appendix,” Bridget says. “He would have been able to say that he was in pain and it would have been just routine.”
She adds: “My mum always wanted a boy. She had two daughters, then Gerard, and then another two daughters. He was always there for us. For the past seven years we have all been so focussed on Gerard. But for me personally, it’s always been at the back of my mind.
“I couldn’t have done it while he was alive. Out of respect for him, I have to do all I can to find out what happened. I just want to know the truth. I have to do the best for his kids, who are teenagers now, because he’s not here any more. They’re left having lost their father, with no explanation and no reason why. It’s difficult for them to remember him as he was.
“I’m so grateful that he survived the attack. I probably had more laughs with him in that time then I’d ever had. I’d just make sure it was an enjoyable fun time, like going to Arsenal. But I almost feel like I’ve lost him twice.
“It sickens me that someone takes someone’s life away, does something so reckless and careless without any thought for the people it affects. Perhaps the person who did this doesn’t know the consequences of what they did. And if that person reads this and doesn’t sleep for the rest of their lives that maybe enough for me.”
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Kerena Hammond said: “We are determined to find out what happened to Gerard on that fateful day. Although it was several years ago, someone out there knows what happened and I appeal to them to come forward and speak to police in confidence.”
• Anyone with information should call Islington Police Case Progression Unit on 0207 421 0145 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.