Around 11 pm on Friday 3 March, a University of St Andrews student was assaulted on Abbey Walk. The student, Ethan Garner, said he was accosted by a group of four young individuals.
The incident occurred in the vicinity of Ayton House. According to Mr Garner, the assailants seemed to be agitated after he asked for directions to a friend’s flat. They allegedly retaliated by tackling Mr Garner to the ground and repeatedly punching him. The attackers then fled the scene in the direction of town. Mr Garner suffered minor injuries and was treated at a local hospital in Dundee.
At the time of the assault, Mr Garner was walking with another St Andrews student, Emily Allen. The two had briefly separated, so Mr Garner asked the four teenagers for directions. He was then assaulted.
The four individuals were described as young and wearing dark clothing, including a grey sweatshirt, according to the victim’s recollections.
“The initial reaction was just confusion,” Mr Garner said in a phone interview.
Though he had felt threatened in St Andrews once or twice before, Mr Garner said this was his first experience with actual violence.
“I wasn’t expecting to get attacked,” he said. “I would just say avoid talking to strangers.”
Garner’s companion, Ms Allen, was shaken following the assault. She said she had never felt threatened in St Andrews before the incident.
“It was just such a brutal attack in such a small town,” she said. “That was all I could think about that night.”
The assault came at a time when many students complained of being targeted by local residents. Before the two-week spring break, there were multiple unofficial reports of people in cars throwing eggs at students walking along the street, as well as eggs being thrown at student properties.
In the days following the incident, inspector John Docherty confirmed that an investigation was underway in an email statement to The Saint.
He added that attacks on students in St Andrews “are very rare” and simple things such as drinking responsibly, staying with friends, and keeping a charged phone can help prevent similar incidents.
Although student perception of crime may be up, a 2015 government survey of the Fife Council area showed that more than 75 percent believe crime has been decreasing or stayed the same.
Government statistics show that for the last five years data was available, common assaults in Fife have been steadily decreasing. In 2012, there 4,138 common assaults recorded by police.
Police have confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the assault. No arrests have been made.
Anyone with information regarding the assault is encouraged to contact Police Scotland by dialing 101.