By Hollie Bone
A mum sleeping on the street for a charity fundraiser had a night from hell when a drunken thug smashed her face into the ground after she allegedly refused to exchange sex for a donation.
Jen Ross, 39, from New Brighton, Wirral, was completing a 12-hour charity sleep out on the streets of nearby Liscard in March this year when she was attacked by Craig Jones, 35, of Hope Street, New Brighton, after he allegedly offered her a £500 donation if she slept with him.
The shopkeeper was left with a bloodied face and bruises all over her body after Jones threw her to the ground, giving her a concussion and amnesia but and leaving three youngest children, Molly, six, Ethan, seven, and Thomas, 11 unable to look at her without crying.
Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of assault at Wirral Magistrates Court and was sentenced to 17 weeks in prison on August 28.
Charity volunteer Jen said the aftermath of the attack was even worse than her injuries as the amnesia she is still suffering left her too terrified to go out for fear anyone she walked past could be her attacker and she wouldn’t know.
Single mum-of-four Jen said: “The sleep out is an annual event and it’s always been a huge success, but this year turned into the night from hell.
“Jones walked past with a few friends and you could tell they had had a drink.
“He mentioned he used to be homeless, but then he started making a couple of remarks that he would donate £30 for a blow job. I told him we had kids with us and that it wasn’t appropriate.
“A few hours later – at about 12am – he came back on his own and that’s when he started getting really crude with me.
“He said he had won some money and was going to donate £500 to take me home for the night.
“I just backed away and ignored him but one of the other volunteers started leading him off towards the town centre.
“We watched him come up behind the volunteer and grab him around the neck.
“There was a bit of a scuffle breaking out so I went to stand between them and break them up.
“I don’t actually remember the blow but he grabbed me from behind and threw me to the ground.
“I touched my face and when I looked down my hands were covered in blood.
“I was so shocked that I didn’t actually feel the pain at first, more than anything I just wanted to stay at the sleep out and carry on like nothing had happened.”
Jen had taken part in the sleep out – which is held every year in aid of local charities Wirral Homeless CIC and The Wirral Copper Jar – for three years without any issues.
After the attack, police rushed the mum to hospital where doctors told her she was concussed and would have to be kept in overnight.
But in the following weeks the head injury she suffered meant her memory of the incident was a complete ‘black spot’
The devoted charity worker became a recluse and said her three youngest children were terrified for their mum’s safety and even needed counselling.
Jen said: “I’m normally an outgoing person and I’m always out and about doing something, but after the attack I went into myself. I’d drop the kids off at school and go straight back home and get into bed.
“I didn’t want to answer the phone or the door or leave the house for anything. I couldn’t face going anywhere near Liscard for weeks.
“What scared me the most was that I couldn’t remember his face and I kept thinking every time I walked past someone in the street, ‘it could be him’
“The paranoia tormented me every time I went out.
“I pulled back from all my charity work. I thought ‘what’s the point’ of doing all these good things if this is what happens.
“One of the hardest parts for me was how it affected my family.
“My daughter Molly stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me.
“She wouldn’t come near me. I tried to tell them it was just cuts and bruises and that it would go away but they couldn’t look at me without crying.
“Everyday they would wake up having initially forgotten until they looked at me and remembered again.
“My eldest didn’t want me to go anywhere without him, he didn’t want me to go out after dark and whenever I’d go anywhere with him he’s walk with his arm round me.”
After comedian Jason Manford, shared a picture of Jen’s injuries and told his followers what had happened, the amount raised by this year’s sleep out soared from less than £300 to more than £7,000.
Months later, after facing her attacker in the courtroom as he was sentenced last month, Jen has revealed the ordeal hasn’t stopped her from taking part in charity sleep outs – with the next taking place this December.
She said: “I wanted to show my attacker in the court room that he couldn’t intimidate me anymore.
“I realised after all this had happened that I still got to go home to a warm bed and a supportive family.
“It made me think about all the homeless people who face these kind of incidents every day.
“After they’ve been treated in hospital they just get sent back to the streets.
“If I can feel intimidated in a group of people, I can’t imagine how it must feel on your own.
“Before I was wondering whether I was going to be able to carry on with the charity work and the sleep out but I think now I’m even more determined to do it next year just to prove that you can’t let one bad apple ruin something good.”
Founder of Wirral Homeless CIC, Robyn Moore, said: “My heart not only hurts for my amazing friend Jen but for our homeless who have to deal with this everyday. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
“I am grateful that Jen had a home to go to to heal up but it hurts knowing that our homeless don’t have the same privilege.
“Thank you to Jen for organising our street sleep and raising money for what you are so passionate about, I will never be able to apologise enough for what you have been through.”