Mugged pensioner Alan Barnes to move to Shetland

Disabled pensioner Alan Barnes from Gateshead is pictured with beautician Katie Cutler, who started a fundraising campaign on his behalf. Picture: Getty Images

Disabled pensioner Alan Barnes from Gateshead is pictured with beautician Katie Cutler, who started a fundraising campaign on his behalf. Picture: Getty Images

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A DISABLED pensioner whose mugging sparked sympathy across the globe is planning a move to the remote Shetland Islands after getting a “calling from God”.

Committed Christian Alan Barnes has only lived in his home in Low Fell, Gateshead, since April, after an online fund set up for him reached £330,000 within days of his shocking attack by a drug addict.

The 67-year-old, six-stone OAP was knocked to the floor outside his old home by Richard Gatiss in January.

The 4ft pensioner, who has suffered from height and growth problems since birth, suffered a broken collar bone in the attack when the legal-high user pushed him to the ground as he moved his wheelie bin.

He was too afraid to return to his bungalow, which prompted local beautician Katie Cutler to set up an online fundraising drive to help support the victim as he looked for a new home.

Mr Barnes’ plight touched hearts across the UK, and around the world, with generous well-wishers donating a staggering £330,000 in a matter of weeks.

He used half the money to buy a two-bedroom terraced house, for which he paid £150,000 in April.

Now he wants to work for the church and plans to move to Shetland, despite never having been there before.

He said, if he had not been partially sighted, he would have liked to have been a church minister. His role will not to try to make people go to church, but to talk to them about his faith, Mr Barnes said.

He added: “I am a Christian and I am open to the Holy Spirit. I have had a calling from God to move to the Shetlands.

“Whenever anyone stops and talks to me, all they ask is how am I settling in. But I’d much rather talk about my Christian faith. If the house sells quick I’ll just rent somewhere.

“It’s really exciting. I could just stay here but I’m not going to ignore the call from God.”

In Shetland, he can expect a totally different quality of life, according to islander James Tait, who runs a popular tourism business called Island Trails.

Mr Tait, 41, said: “We have got a great community spirit with everyone supporting each other. Shetland offers a clean environment, good fresh air and very little crime. He can expect a warm welcome when he arrives and will enjoy the community spirit.

“There is a great traditional music scene in Shetland, along with great, fresh food.”

He now plans to rent a home in the Shetlands after the sale of his house, which is on the market for £155,000.

Miss Cutler, who started the fund off for Mr Barnes, has been honoured with the British Empire Medal and has set up a foundation to support other good causes.

She set up a charity called the Katie Cutler Foundation, for which Mr Barnes is an ambassador.

Meanwhile, Gatiss, 25, of Gateshead, was jailed for four years at Newcastle Crown Court after admitting assault with intent to rob.

While on remand Gatiss was kept in segregation for his own safety.

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