Man who threw ‘ammonia’ in busker’s face jailed

Greg Aitken performing in Glasgow's Ashton Lane. The music graduate has been left virtually blind after an ammonia-like substance was thrown in his face. Picture: Spindthrift
Greg Aitken performing in Glasgow's Ashton Lane. The music graduate has been left virtually blind after an ammonia-like substance was thrown in his face. Picture: Spindthrift
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A MAN who threw an ammonia-like substance into the face of a student busker, causing horrific chemical burns to his eyes, was today jailed for more than five years.

George Kerr, 57, was also ordered to be monitored in the community for 44 months after his release from jail.

Kerr, sentenced to a total of 64 months in prison, carried out the unprovoked attack on 22-year-old music graduate Greg Aitken in Ashton Lane in Glasgow’s West End last year on September 12.

He was sentenced at the High Court in Paisley where judge Lord Bannatyne told him: “This was a truly dreadful crime. It was a planned revenge attack on Mr Aitken involving the use of a strong alkali which was then thrown into this young man’s face.

“These actions have had the most appalling results for him. He had recently graduated from university with a music degree, and given the injuries which you have inflicted is not going to, in any proper sense, follow that career.”

Musician Mr Aitken has been told by doctors that it is not yet possible to assess the full extent of the damage. He is currently 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 by taxi to the Western Infirmary where he was treated before being transferred to an eye specialist at Gartnavel Hospital.

Before the brutal attack Mr Aitken’s sight was perfect, but now it is blurred, and he can only see things which are around four inches from his face.

He has to wear sunglasses all the time because daylight hurts his eyes, which are bloodshot and sore.

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

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Kerr, of Bilsland Drive, Glasgow, who is unemployed, and has convictions for dishonesty and road traffic offences, admitted assaulting Mr Aitken by throwing an unidentified noxious substance onto 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 a beggar - who cannot be named for legal reasons - who grabbed him round the clothing and neck. Mr Aitken punched the beggar to get him off and he then ran off,

On September 12 around 6.30pm the same beggar walked along Ashton Lane with Kerr and pointed out Mr Aitken saying: “That’s him.”

At the time the beggar had a cast on his arm and shouted at Mr Aitken saying: “I’ll get you in two months.”

Mr Aitken took this to mean that the beggar 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. Initially when questioned by police Kerr denied any involvement in the incident.

A consultant ophthalmologist confirmed that Mr Aitken sustained a chemical injury which caused burns to the surface of his eyes.

Mr Wallace added: “The consultant olphthalmologist 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.”

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