31 May 2024

Family's 'nightmare' after unprovoked one-punch attack left father brain damaged

| Albert McKnight

Police shared this image of Andrew Junior Apelu Saulo on social media after the one-punch assault on 24 September 2023. Photo: ACT Policing.

A young member of a church choir launched an unprovoked one-punch attack on his victim during a night out, leaving him with an irreversible brain injury and causing a “nightmare” for his family.

Andrew Junior Apelu Saulo pleaded guilty to a charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm over the early morning attack on 24 September 2023.

After one of his friends began staring at one of the victim’s friends and called her “hot” in the Civic nightclub 88mph, the victim’s group got into a scuffle with Saulo’s group before they were all asked to leave, court documents say.

The victim and his friend were then walking away on Hobart Place when Saulo and five other men caught up to them.

The friend asked the men to leave them alone, but when she tried to stand between them and the victim to stop another altercation, the then-20-year-old Saulo stepped past her to punch the victim with a left hook.

He fell backwards, hit his head on a gutter and was knocked unconscious. Saulo fled while emergency services were called and arrived shortly afterwards.

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ACT Policing posted a photo of Saulo on their social media account in an attempt to identify him and he handed himself in that same day.

The victim had been left with a long list of injuries, including a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury, facial nerve palsy, numbness to his head, profound hearing loss, loss of smell and taste and more.

In a statement read to the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (31 May), the man, aged in his 40s, said a quiet and enjoyable birthday party ended with him getting “horrifically injured by an unprovoked attack”.

“I could have died that night and have not stopped thinking of all the countless one-punch attacks that have taken so many lives,” the father-of-four said.

“I am a broken man and my life has changed forever.”

His wife also told the court, “This nightmare has turned our lives upside down”.

“From being a very close and happy family spending time together, now we are constantly under stress and worried,” she said.

“My husband has to endure these permanent injuries for the rest of his life and I wish this had never happened to him.”

Saulo wrote a letter in which he described his attack as “uncalled for” and he “acted without thinking”.

“I’m deeply sorry for what I have done,” he said.

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His lawyer, Legal Aid’s Nathan Deakes, said this was the first time his now-21-year-old client had been in custody and the eight months he’d already spent behind bars had been a fairly salutary lesson for him.

He claimed his client, who attends a Methodist church where he goes to its youth group and sings in its choir, had “blacked out” and “saw red” before throwing the punch.

Mr Deakes, who ultimately asked for his client to be sentenced to a community-based intensive corrections order, said his family was Samoan, but he had been born in New Zealand before becoming a permanent resident in Australia, so he faced the prospect of deportation.

The prosecutor said Saulo hadn’t tried to help the victim after he punched him, even though he saw him lying on the ground.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum adjourned the matter to 21 June. Saulo didn’t apply for bail and remains in custody.

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