Feb 21 2013 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
A PROMISING footballer almost died after being smashed in the head with a hammer on the way home from his mother’s 50th birthday party.
Liam McDonagh’s skull was split in the savage attack at the junction of High Street and Locket Road, in Wealdstone, while he was walking back from a nearby pub where he and his family had celebrated.
The 18-year-old, of Long Elmes, Harrow, who used to attend Watford FC’s Centre of Excellence and last season played in Uxbridge FC’s youth team, underwent a six-hour operation to repair the damage.
His sister Rosie Higgs, 21, of College Avenue, Harrow, said: “It’s terrible. Everyone can’t believe it. It was a brilliant night until the time to go home.
“We are happy that he’s doing really well. He’s a football fanatic and a goalkeeper. The fact he might not be able to play football again is heartbreaking.”
The McDonagh family had celebrated mother Paula McDonagh’s 50th birthday in The Shanakee, High Street, and Liam was returning to the family home just minutes away with his younger brother, his girlfriend and her mother and some friends, when he was attacked at 1.20am on Saturday.
Mrs Higgs told the Observer she believes it was a case of mistaken identity.
She said there were two men and a girl, but only one man carried out the attack.
She said: “When he came up to my brother, he pushed him and then he got this hammer out of his back pocket. The attacker held a plug in his other hand like a knuckleduster and I think he said he was going to kill Liam.
“My brother ducked the first swing but he was caught on the head with the hammer when he was standing up. He got knocked out straight away. He fell to the ground and there was blood everywhere.”
The attacker waved the hammer to frighten Liam’s family and friends away then ran off laughing, she said.
“Our little brother David was there. He saw everything and for a 14-year-old to have to see that is disgusting. He and my mum are in a right state. She just can’t believe it.”
Paramedics took Liam, an A-level student at Whitmore High School, in Porlock Avenue, West Harrow, to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London, for an emergency operation because fragments of broken skull had penetrated his brain.
Mrs Higgs said: “They thought he was going to die and we expected the worst. I got a call from one of the nurses the next morning saying ‘get to the hospital because your brother is not going to make it’.
“He’s better now. He’s got some memory loss and has trouble with other things, but he’s responsive and he’s talking. He seems to know who everyone is.”
Mrs Higgs said the doctors remain concerned about the swelling on both sides of the brain, as he also hit his head when he fell.
She added: “Liam’s an honest, genuine, lovely boy and comes from a large, loving family.”
Investigating officers from Harrow Police want to speak to two men in connection with the incident, one of whom’s identity they believe they already know.
The second suspect is described as a white man, who was wearing a dark jacket with a white top visible below the jacket, dark trousers and a baseball cap.
No arrests have been made or weapon found.
■ Anyone with any information can contact Detective Constable Jamie Kay of Harrow CID on 101 or, alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.