Busker left blind after ‘ammonia’ thrown in eyes

Busker Greg Aitken. Picture: Spindrift

Busker Greg Aitken. Picture: Spindrift

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AN unemployed man threw an ammonia-like substance into the face of a student busker ­causing horrific chemical burns to his eyes, a court was told ­yesterday.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that 57-year-old George Kerr carried out the unprovoked attack on 22-year-old music graduate Greg Aitken in Ashton Lane in the city’s West End on 12 September last year.

Details of the attack on Greg Aitken were heard at the High Court in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

Details of the attack on Greg Aitken were heard at the High Court in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

Mr Aitken has been told by doctors that it is not yet possible to assess the full extent of the damage. He is unable to work and is extremely worried about the long-term consequences.

Advocate depute Ian Wallace, prosecuting, said: “Mr Aitken had liquid in his hair and eyes and over his face. He immediately felt intense pain and burning in his eyes and nose and was unable to see.”

The court heard that a ­steward at a nearby pub threw water over him in a bid to wash away the noxious substance. A friend then took him to the Western Infirmary where he was treated before being transferred to an eye specialist at Gartnavel Hospital.

Before the attack, Mr Aitken’s sight was perfect; now it is blurred, and he can only see things that are around four inches from his face. He has to wear sunglasses all the time ­because daylight hurts his eyes.

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The court was told that Mr Aitken was unable to stay in his flat because of his poor vision and moved in with his ­parents.

Kerr, of, Glasgow, who is ­unemployed and has convictions for dishonesty and road traffic offences, admitted assaulting Mr Aitken by throwing an unidentified noxious substance on to his face and eyes to his ­severe injury and permanent ­impairment.

The court heard that Mr Aitken regularly busked in ­Ashton Lane and in early ­September had an argument with beggar Colin Sly, who grabbed him round the clothing and neck. Mr Aitken punched Sly to make him let go and the beggar ran off.

On 12 September at around 6.30pm, Mr Sly walked along Ashton Lane with Kerr and pointed out Mr Aitken, saying: “That’s him.” At the time, Sly had a cast on his arm and shouted at Mr Aitken: “I’ll get you in two months.”

Mr Aitken took this to mean that Sly intended to assault him once his cast was removed.

Two hours later, Kerr walked up and threw a paper cup full of an alkaline liquid at Mr Aitken.

He was later identified from photographs and at an identification parade.

When questioned by police, Kerr denied any involvement. A consultant ophthalmologist confirmed that Mr Aitken ­sustained a chemical injury which caused burns to the ­surface of his eyes.

Mr Wallace added: “He was unable to say what the liquid was, but said it was consistent with alkali burns, which could be caused by, for example, ammonia.

“Mr Aitken and other witnesses present described the liquid as smelling like hair dye.”

Kerr, who has been in ­custody since last October, will be ­sentenced next month.

Judge Lord Bannatyne asked for an updated report on Mr Aitken’s eyesight to be available then.

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