An 82-year-old disabled Australian war veteran was bashed up by an unemployed youth as he would not cough up 50 cents.
The incident happened in broad daylight, Wednesday afternoon, on a busy Sydney street.
Kristopher Cowie, 30, allegedly punched Ernest Evans in the head on President Ave, Caringbah. The blow was hard enough to send the veteran Evans flying into the gutter, covered in blood.
"He asked me for 50 cents. I said, 'No,' and he went back and had a talk to the woman and he came back and went - bang," Evans told The Daily Telegraph. "It was stupid, damn stupid . . . all over 50 cents."
The woman referred to by Evans is Cowie's girlfriend Tracey Prater, 29. She stood by him during the attack and sought to prevent the veteran's wife from intervening.
Evans served in the army in Bougainville and for two years in the occupation forces in Japan at the end of the World War II.
His war service has led to emphysema, a recent stomach haemorrhage, heart surgery and the loss of a kidney, and he has spent eight of the past 11 weeks in hospital.
He was outside St Vincent de Paul, a charity, while his wife Una Evans was paying for a war history book and a pink piggy bank at the time of the attack.
Police said that Cowie returned with Ms Prater after asking for the 50c. Without a word, he "struck the victim with a closed right fist to the ... left eye and temple region."
"The force of the punch has caused the victim to fall backwards from his seated position over the back of the bench and fall to the ground."
Coming out of the charity complex and seeing the fracas, Mrs.Evans rushed to intervene, but Cowie's girl friend told her to mind her business: "Do not get involved or you will get what he is getting."
"All I could see was a person who was upside down in the gutter and on the road, legs up in the air," Mrs Evans said.
"I thought, 'Who's that?' and then I saw his hat and I realised it was Ernie and I ran over."
Several young men chased the Cowie and Prater as they fled, finally managing to hand them over to police.
The man was unco-operative, "antagonistic and difficult." The police were unable to get fingerprints or photographs, court documents said.
The prosecution stiffly opposed his bail plea and pointed out that Cowie was already on bail in other offences, But he was freed by magistrate James Coombs.
Cowie interrupted proceedings to say that Evans, more than 50 years his senior, punched him in the mouth, and wanted to know, "Should I be quiet (when attacked)?"
When the magistrate finally freed him, Cowie said: "Thank you, your honour."
Prater was bailed by the police themselves, and she was ecstatic when the magistrate delivered the ruling.
Pictures of the couple outside the court showed Prater smiling hugely.
Evans later said he was touched by the help given by strangers. Some shopkeepers had brought him drinks and one a wet towel. The veteran returned to the area to thank them.