Dereham schoolgirl, 14, targeted by four men in unprovoked attack

The family of a Dereham schoolgirl punched and kicked in an unprovoked attack have made a desperate plea for information about the crime.

Shannon Morgan has endured seven operations on her jaw since she was targeted by a gang of four men while walking home from school in November.

The 14-year-old will need further surgery before she can speak properly or eat solid food again, while the attack has shattered her confidence.

Her mother, Nicola Rampley is appealing for anyone with information to come forward so her once bubbly daughter can finally put the ordeal behind her.

'For a long time, it destroyed everything about her,' Mrs Rampley, 40, said. 'For a while she would not even leave the house and she still feels paranoid when someone's walking behind her.

'I can't even comprehend what's happened. Not only did they hit a girl, but a child – I can't understand that mindset. Someone out there knows what happened and has a conscience.'

Shannon, a pupil at Dereham's Neatherd High School, felt unwell during lessons and was walking home at around 11.20am on November 2 when the attack happened.

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As she cut through the churchyard near Becclesgate, she saw a group of four young men sitting on a bench.

'I didn't think anything of it and didn't take too much notice,' she said. 'I didn't recognise any of them.'

As she walked past, one of the men grabbed her then-long hair, punched her twice in the face and kicked her twice in the ribs when she fell to the ground.

Shannon lay on the floor frightened while the group walked away, laughing, before making her way home.

'I said it was OK for her walk home – it was broad daylight and I knew my partner, Stephen, was there,' Mrs Rampley said. 'I cried when I found out, but I was so angry as well. I still feel so guilty that I didn't pick her up.'

Shannon's face was bloodied and swollen and an x-ray at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital the next day confirmed her jaw was dislocated.

Her jaw was put back in place several times over the next few days, but each time it would dislocate itself again.

In the months that followed, Shannon had seven operations under general anaesthetic as doctors attempted to keep it in place by wiring her jaw shut.

The wires were removed over the Christmas period, only for her jaw to dislocate itself again three weeks later.

'She sobbed when that happened and I just went outside and cried – we really thought we had cracked it that time,' Mrs Rampley said. 'How many times will she have to go through this before it ends?

'Shannon has lost two-and-a-half stones in weight and can only eat nutritional milkshakes, soup and jelly.'

The family will find out on Monday whether the wires can be taken out again under general anaesthetic – hopefully for good.

'Where it has been relocated so many times, the bone has worn away,' Mrs Rampley said. 'They could refer her to a specialist in Nottingham because they can't keep her wired up. The metal brackets are damaging her gums.'

After missing weeks of lessons, Shannon may also need to repeat year ten, delaying her plans to study A'levels in Norwich and her dream of becoming a tattoo artist.

'I was due to take GCSE exams in June,' she said. 'I know repeating the year would be the best thing for me. At least then, when I get through this, I can still do well.

'The main thing I feel is confusion because I don't know why it was me out of all the people who must have walked through the churchyard that day.

'My confidence is something I will have to work, but it would help knowing the person who did this is not out there any more.'

DC Ian Young said: 'This was a callous and unprovoked attack and it's had a catastrophic affect on the family. Someone out there knows who is responsible and I would urge them to phone the police or Crimestoppers.'

The attacker was aged between 18 and 27, with tanned skin and a medium build. He was clean-shaven, around 5ft 10 and wearing a black hooded top.

Call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 with any information.