The park where care worker Alan Willson was brutally attacked trying to save his son from bullies is a no-go area plagued by drug dealers, families claimed today.
Sellers and users were said to openly trade and take drugs, including crack cocaine, making Longcroft Park a menacing place to visit in daylight and completely avoided after dark.
Mr Willson, 46, had to sprint there from his home in Worthing, West Sussex, when he heard a group were throwing his son to the floor on Easter Sunday.
When he tried to intervene he was knocked unconscious – before his head was hit with an object as his horrified son watched.
Frightened locals today told MailOnline they rarely see police patrolling there – a vivid contrast to the crimescene where the savage attack was unleashed on Mr Willson.
One, a pensioner aged 78, said: ‘This park should be a safe haven for the kids and for elderly people like me who just wanna get some peace from the area.
‘But it’s really rough. The big problem is the drug dealers in this park and kids smoking crack and getting out of their heads.
‘One doesn’t feel safe at all when they’re around. We need more police.
Alan Willson, 46, (right) sprinted from his home in Worthing, West Sussex, to nearby Longcroft Park when he heard a group were throwing his son to the floor on Easter Sunday
Drug paraphernalia found in Longcroft Park where Mr Willson was attacked next to a notorious spot where dealers congregate
Four youths were arrested on Sunday (police at the scene on Sunday, pictured) and another on Monday. All five have been since been bailed – but are under ‘strict conditions’ including a ban on meeting each other and curfews
‘I walk my dog in the morning and afternoon but never in the evening. I wouldn’t want to be here in the dark.
‘The drug dealers congregate in a kids playground and they bring their music speakers and have some sort of rave parties which annoys the hell out of everybody.’
‘We need more police officers in here. A bigger police presence would make sure that there would be no drugs sold. It is almost as if these youngsters feel they are running a legitimate business and the police can’t stop them.’
Another resident, a woman who asked not to be identified, said: ‘I’ve got a young daughter and I’m scared to take her into the park.
‘There is a kids playground in there with a climbing frame and she should be able to play on that with her friends.
‘But I’m not having that when these boys who look like men are around.
‘They sit there on a bench near the kids playground smoking their drugs, shouting and playing loud music. This has been going on through the pandemic as well. The police need to arrest the whole lot of them.’
Mail Online can reveal that police carried out several drugs raids at addresses close to the park and arrested suspected dealers late last year. At least two nearby houses were thought to have been being used as factories to produce cannabis.
Mr Willson suffered lung trauma, broken bones and fractures to his spine – and had to have surgery on his brain in Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton. Pictured: Police and an air ambulance at the scene on Sunday
Five youths – who cannot be named due to their age – have been arrested for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent. Pictured: Police at the scene on Sunday
A number of arrests have been made over the last few months.
Mr Willson remained in a critical condition in hospital today after the attack last weekend.
A neighbour said the family were extremely close-knit and caring, adding Alan was a ‘proper family man who would do anything for his family.”
He said: ‘They’re a lovely couple, the whole family are. They do everything together. The whole street is shocked by this, everyone is. Alan is a lovely guy and proper family man who would do anything for his family.
‘No-one really knows what’s gone on but it sounds horrendous. There have been problems with teenagers in the park doing drink and drugs and stuff in the past. I’ve spoken to friends about it myself.
‘We’re hoping and praying he’s going to be okay.’
Another said: ‘The family are at the hospital. They’ve been there on and off since this happened and they don’t want pestering. They’re trying to be strong for each other.’
Mr Willson suffered lung trauma, broken bones and fractures to his spine – and had to have surgery on his brain in Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.
He is now in a coma fighting for his life.
Five youths – who cannot be named due to their age – have been arrested for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent.
Four were arrested on Sunday and another on Monday. All five have been since been bailed – but are under ‘strict conditions’ including a ban on meeting each other and curfews.
The pandemic frontline worker is currently in a coma – with those close to his family terrified that he may wake up with brain damage, The Sun reports.
His horrified wife Annie, 49, described how her husband is ‘fighting for his life after brain surgery for multiple bleeds on the brain’.
In a post online, she said he is the most kind and gentle man in the world’.
She said their 11-year-old son has been left traumatised by the ordeal.
Mr Willson’s 25-year-old daughter Becky Willson issued a heartbreaking post on Facebook about her father, urging him to not to let his attackers ‘win’.
She wrote: ‘I just wish i could just see you dad and tell you its going to be okay.
‘Please dad fight for your f****** life you are such a strong, caring man who has brought us kids up and loved us like we are your own.
‘You have so much life left to live and a granddaughter who needs to grow up with her nan-dad.
‘I wish I could just hold your hand but unfortunately Covid has decided that for us.
‘You can do this dad.’
A JustGiving fundraiser has been set up by the Willsons’ family friend Cheryl Edwards.
It set out to raise only £500 to ‘support the family’ with expenses such as travel.
But donations have snowballed with the grand total now standing at £7,603.
To donate to Mr Willson’s fundraiser, click here.