Cowardly attack on disabled

To the two thugs in Australia responsible for the pummelling of a Canadian man in a wheelchair.

To the two thugs in Australia responsible for the pummelling of a Canadian man in a wheelchair.

This incident is cowardly in the extreme.

“I can’t believe a human being would do that to someone else. It’s like a savage,” said Shellan Proden, mother of 35-year-old victim Heath Proden, who grew up in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Heath, confined to a wheelchair following a snowmobile accident 10 years ago, was in Australia visiting his girlfriend. He was returning from a concert Tuesday, waiting for a train, when attacked.

He was punched in the face and knocked from his wheelchair. The assailants continued by stomping on him and beating him with metal bars before robbing him and running off with his wheelchair. Moments later, they returned and continued the beating.

A video shows the victim lying on the cramped floor of an elevator as he tries in vain to fend off blows and get back into his wheelchair. The beating left its multiple scars and he faces surgery to drain fluid from his brain.

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, have been charged in the attack.

How could anyone hold such hatred and disrespect for another — especially one who is incapable of defending himself? It’s very sick.

And it’s not just an Australian problem. Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator with the Council of Canadians With Disabilities, says attacks in Canada on people in wheelchairs are not unheard of.

“We do know that people with disabilities, because of the perception of vulnerability, are often targets,” said Beachell. “The incidence of violence against people with disabilities is actually higher than it is against non-disabled.”

To Red Deer criminal Larry John Vollendorf, who this week returned to the news, years after first surfacing in area courtrooms.

At the age of 59, Vollendorf was sentenced on Wednesday in provincial court to nine months in jail after pleading guilty to defrauding senior citizens in a telephone scam three years ago.

Ironically, he will celebrate his 60th birthday in the slammer, officially becoming a senior himself.

Vollendorf was a familiar face in Red Deer court in the 1970s for stupid property crimes. Police were always 10 steps ahead of this frequently nabbed criminal. His last conviction was in 1985.

Now, as age creeps on, he has returned to the news, apparently no wiser. Vollendorf set up a bank account in Alberta where Americans would send money after being phoned by other scammers who told the victims they had won money. One of the victims was a dying senior from Illinois.

Judge Jim Hunter was incensed during this week’s sentencing. “You will be a senior citizen soon yourself,” he scolded Vollendorf. “You took advantage of a frail, elderly man. You should be utterly and absolutely ashamed of yourself.”

Given his history, that seems unlikely.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.