'I Don't Have a Reason for Killing You but I Will'
Two cases of senseless street violence shock Prague
They didn't harm anyone, yet they were the victims of a brutal attack. It happened at the end of April on the streets of Prague. First, a man and his father had their car stopped not far from Prague Castle and, in front of pedestrians, were knocked to the ground and almost beaten to death. Two days later, in the same area of Prague, a gang brutally attacked two students on their way home.
Unusually, neither case was the result of an argument, or of theft or provocation, nor were they acts of revenge. This was nothing more than gratuitous violence. And according to investigators, it could happen to anyone.
Just a regular day
"I don't have a clue," says Pavel Frydl, 34, of the dramatic incident he was involved in. "I can't sleep at nights and do nothing but replay the insane horror and the powerlessness in my head. You just drive through the city on a regular working day and suddenly your life is at stake."
He and his father, with whom he co-owns a plumbing company, were on their way to a customer when they got lost in Prague's Břevnov district. As a result, they were driving slowly, looking for the right address.
They never found it. Out of the blue, a man in a hood stepped out in front of their car, forcing them to stop. He jumped on the hood of the car and, with one kick, broke the front windscreen. A moment later, a second assailant opened the door of the car and attacked Frydl's father.
"I couldn't even breathe out of fear," Frydl recalls. "I could only blow the horn and scream for help. What followed was a total shock: us, fastened in by our seat belts and and them punching us in the face and the head; we couldn't fight back. They smelled of alcohol and were shouting over and over again, 'I will kill you.' They were completely out of their minds. I was shouting at my dad that we had to get out of the car somehow."
They managed to get out but the assault continued. One kick followed another until both of them were streaming with blood: "The guy that assaulted me was the drunker of the two, but the other one was much worse. My dad was lying on the ground and he was just kicking him and kicking him even when he knew that my dad couldn't defend himself anymore and was just begging him to stop."
Frydl managed to help his father somehow and the attackers ran away. Passers-by didn't try to help them and were just looking at them, terrified. "I believe the guy just wanted to kill my dad," says Frydl. "The kicks to his head and neck were horrific. I felt like vomiting and fell to the ground." They were later taken to hospital with concussions, skull fractures and facial cuts. Both are back home now but are still struggling to deal with the psychological trauma and humiliation they endured.
Students Miloš Borovička, 24, and Lucie Hurychová, 20, underwent a similar experience two days later, on their way back to the college dorms at Hvězda, Břevnov, late at night. Earlier, on the bus, they'd noticed a group of five loud youngsters, pushing and mocking each other, shouting insults and pouring beer over one another. Unfortunately for the student couple, the group got off at the same stop and followed the same route to a local club at Hvězda. "On the way there, they started to shout lewd remarks at my girlfriend so I stepped in, but calmly," says Borovička.
It was a mistake. Within moments he had been knocked to the ground and the five youngsters were kicking him furiously. And because his girlfriend tried to call the police, they started attacking her too. They broke her glasses, pulled her hair and scratched her face. "It was a complete shock," says Borovička. "I didn't expect such a crazy reaction at all. You're suddenly totally helpless and it's only by chance that they they don't kill you. Even though they looked young, they knew very well how to beat people to a pulp."
After a few minutes, the attackers ran away and, showing no remorse, immediately went to a nearby club where they told people with pride what they'd just done. It was there, too, that the police arrested most of them that same night. The two people accused of the first attack were caught in a similar way. After CCTV pictures were released, one of them was recognized a week later, just a short walk from the scene of the crime, and reported to the police.
Two men are in custody for the first attack now, and face up to 10 years behind bars. Three of the five members of the other group also face charges but remain free while the prosecution proceeds.
The victims say the police carried out a textbook investigation, treating them with compassion and making arrests swiftly. But since the detectives refuse to release any details not much is known about the attackers' backgrounds. We don't know their names, where they come from, their family situation or their educational backgrounds.
Yet it is believed that in both cases, these were young men aged around 20 -- probably members of the same gang -- for whom this was not the first "extreme sport."
According to the investigating officers, the group videoed some of their activities and posted them on the internet. The motive given was "bigtime boredom."
"These aggressors attack for the sake of the experience of violence, where a person's life is at risk," says Prague police spokeswoman Eva Miklíková.
"I thought the whole time they were neo-Nazis," says Pavel Frydl. "They were dressed that way and they were so brutal. I can't explain it any other way." The officers in charge of the investigation, however, say that it was probably an example of a new type of gratuitous, unprovoked violence carried out by frustrated urban youth. As Petra Vitoušová of the Bílý kruh bezpečí (White Circle of Safety) association acknowledges, these youths are lonely, indifferent to their neighbourhood, have little going for them in their lives and haven't mastered basic social behavior. "Violence for these youngsters doesn't have any ideological grounds," she says. "They're just using it to kill time. For them, it's like a drug they enjoy and their passion for it grows."
What to do next
According to the police, this type of violence is on the rise relative to crime generally, although hard numbers are only just being collected. And the question that's being asked is how to deal with this threat.
"We're reinforcing local patrols, closely monitoring areas, and these types of crimes are being investigated by our top people," says Miklíková of the Prague police. "But the violators always have an advantage over us."
So it becomes a matter of self-defence. Bílý kruh bezpečí advises avoiding suspicious places, keep dubious people at a distance, listening to your instincts and, if there's danger, running away and calling for help.
"I'm still trying to figure out what mistake I might possibly have made," says Frydl. "I could certainly have run over the guy with the car or got the pipe we were carrying out of the trunk. But you realize that the result would have been serious injuries for the attacker, or even his death, and I couldn't do that."
Borovička has been thinking the same way. "I've done some martial arts in the past but I wouldn't have a chance without a weapon," he says. "So now I'm thinking about a telescopic stick and my girlfriend about some pepper spray. I'll be afraid for a while but hopefully that will pass. I'm thinking about self-defense courses now since that would provide me with a cooler outlook and the capacity to orient myself more quickly should a similar situation occur again."
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