Darren Bagalo, victim of violent 2002 racist attack in Romford, speaks of ‘relief’ at end of case

A man who was stabbed, beaten and left for dead in a racist attack in Romford has told the Recorder of his “relief” at the case’s final conviction this week.

Darren Bagalo, who was 18 when the attack in 2002 left him fighting for his life, recalled how he’d been “destroyed” by what happened that night.

“I didn’t leave my house for a year,” said the 29-year-old. “I’d been at college and that got put on hold. I was in and out of hospital.

“We ended up moving to Spain to just get away from it all.

“At first it felt like it wasn’t real. I couldn’t get out of bed so I couldn’t see myself.

“But then three days later I was able to get up and I caught sight of my reflection.

“My face was so bad I couldn’t recognise myself. That’s when it hit me.”

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The case’s final defendant, 43-year-old Alan Thompson, of no fixed abode, was this week sentenced to 11 years behind bars for his part in the attack.

Security worker Mr Bagalo, who returned from Spain two years ago and now hopes to pursue a police career, said his experience had opened his eyes.

“I’d never had a problem with the colour of my skin when I was at school,” he explained. “I thought that was gone.

“I know my dad had a lot of it in the 1970s but I just find it weird that there are still people out there who think about all that.

“I still don’t go out at night because you don’t know if it’s going to happen again.

“We were kids. You don’t think about fully grown men beating you up and stabbing you because of the colour of your skin.”

Mr Bagalo, who lives in Essex, said counselling was helping him work through his experiences, but admitted: “It would be a lot easier if I’d died.

“I’m not the same person I was before. If you’ve never experienced something like that I don’t think you could ever understand.

“The physical scars are fine – it’s the mental scars that take a lot of work to get through.”