A STUDENT said he thought he was going to die during a brutal attack which saw him tied up, struck with a hammer and put in a body bag, before his twisted attackers threatened to bury him alive in Brede High Woods.
Ben Hutchings’ ordeal began after he was lured to Sam Simon’s house in Earl Street, Hastings, for an evening of computer gaming on September 19 last year.
As the 21-year-old entered the property, he was ambushed by Sam, his brother Alex Simon and their friend Muhammet Yalcin, and was struck in the head and left eye with a hammer.
Ben told the Observer: “I struggled to get out the house, but there was a lock on the gate, so I could not escape.
“I was then hit again in the back of my head and I went down to the ground.
“I was then tied up and stripped naked.
“I was whipped in the face with a heater wire.
“I was put in a white body bag and they choked me so I could not speak.”
The gang demanded money and even called Ben’s terrified girlfriend and ordered her to hand over money.
Ben was bundled into a car and Artur Oganesyan drove Ben and his attackers to Brede High Woods, which stretches between Brede and Cripps Corner, where the sickening attack continued.
Ben said: “I thought I was going to die.
“I could not believe this was happened to me, more than anything.”
As the kicks and punches continued to rain down, the gang threatened to bury Ben in the woods, which is a popular spot for local dog walkers and nature lovers.
But ringleader Sam Simon seemed to have a change a heart and as he raised the hammer to strike Ben again, he broke down in tears.
The gang put Ben back in the car and drove him back to Hastings and dumped him in the street. Ben said: “On the way back they were laughing, saying they did not have a shovel so that’s why they did not bury me. It was quite sick.”
He added: “They were talking to me as if things were OK.
“They completely changed.”
Ben spent more than 30 hours in hospital and his injuries took four months to heal properly. He said: “I could not see out of my left eye for four days and I could not walk properly for three days.
“They hit all my joints - hip, knees, ankles, shoulders. And they broke my teeth.”
He added: “They were saying they had done it before.
“They said they were following the same routines and trying to play hard men. They brought my loved ones into a horrible event.
“It was horrific.”
Officers quickly arrested Alex Simon, Yalcin and Oganesyan and within a few days Sam Simon had also been arrested.
After the first arrests, Jowad Ghemati approached Ben and offered him thousands of pounds to drop the case.
At Hove Crown Court on Friday, Sam Simon, 21, of Earl Street, Hastings, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.
His brother Alex Simon, 17, also of Earl Street, was convicted of false imprisonment.
Muhammet “Melik” Yalcin, 20, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards, and Artur Oganesyan, 23, of Stanley Road, Hastings, were both convicted of false imprisonment.
Jowad Ghemati, 27, of Holmhurst Lane, St Leonards, was convicted of witness intimidation.
All five were remanded in custody to be sentenced on April 14.
Detective Sergeant Michael Burnage said: “The suspects attacked the victim because they decided they could get money from him quickly and easily. They have shown no remorse for their actions and despite the weight of evidence against them, made the victim relive the horrendous event again in court.
“The victim’s ordeal was made worse by Ghemati’s blatant attempt to intimidate him so that he would not give evidence - a mistake which has now cost Ghemati dear as well.
“We would like to thank the victim, the witnesses who attended court and the CPS for supporting this investigation.
“Incidents like this are very rare in Sussex. We will not tolerate any attempt to intimidate witnesses or prevent justice being done and will take action to prosecute those responsible.”
- Ben, who is studying television production at the University of Brighton, has made a documentary about the traumatic incident, called Flashback Hammer Attack, which has been accepted by BBC Three and is due to air shortly.