WATCH: Shannon Morgan, victim of brutal Dereham assault, makes emotional plea to find attackers after six years
PUBLISHED: 11:40 07 September 2017
It took just one punch to dislocate Shannon Morgan's jaw and completely change her life.
Once she had fallen to the ground the four men in hoods surrounded her and two of them began to kick, cracking and breaking her ribs.
It was a brutal and unprovoked attack in broad daylight in the Dereham church yard on November 2, 2011 when Miss Morgan was just 14.
MORE: Dereham schoolgirl, 14, targeted by four men in unprovoked attack
Now aged 20 and living in Swaffham she has just come out of hospital following the 23rd attempt to repair her jaw. The attackers were never caught and the case is no longer being investigated by police.
But for Miss Morgan the repercussions of that day have never gone away and she is appealing for someone to come forward with new information so that she can have closure.
“The police put it down to happy slapping as it was popular at the time but they never found out who did it,” said Miss Morgan.
“I was on my way home from school after being sent home in the middle of the day so it happened in broad daylight. My mum had not thought twice about me walking home at that time of day. Nobody can ever really believe it happened like that.
“Because of the way my jaw dislocated it left a muscle trapped in between a joint and every time they relocate my jaw and the anaesthetic wears off it will push itself back out.”
The damage meant that for some time she was unable to speak properly or eat solid foods and her jaw had to be wired shut multiple times in an effort to keep it in place.
This latest operation is supposed to be the last and in two weeks time she will be back in hospital to have the stitches removed. If all goes to plan then there is a possibility that the operation, combined with numerous jaw exercises, will allow her to live a normal life and return to eating properly but she describes the chances as “slim”.
“This is a repeat of an operation I had five years ago. There is a chance it will come apart again and if it keeps happening there are only so many times they can keep going back in.
“I’ve been in agony since it was done because of what the doctors had to do. They’ve cut from bottom of my earlobe upwards and into almost an L shape near my temple so they’ve pulled and cut away right near the nerves.”
While the physical effects have had a major impact on Miss Morgan’s life, it is the mental and emotional repercussions that have been hardest to deal with. The attack shattered her self confidence and for some time she was scared to leave the house.
“The paranoia has never really gone,” she said. “I know they are still out there and it’s hard to move on from that. I have no form of closure. It may have gone away for everyone else but I have to live with this every single day.
“Dereham is a small town and somebody must know something. If it was me it would be eating away. This is somebody’s chance to speak up and have their closure as well as give me my own.
“Normally if you can understand the reason for something it is easier to deal with but when there is no reason you can’t comprehend it at all.
“At the time police said it was wrong place, wrong time. The only thing they had was CCTV of the back of the four people with their hoods up. Descriptions of their clothing were put out but nobody ever came forward.”
Norfolk police confirmed the description still stands as a group of men aged between 17 and 20 years at the time of the incident and all wearing hooded tops with their hoods pulled up.
A spokesperson said: “As this crime took place a long time ago it will now have been filed, which means it is not being actively investigated unless new evidence comes to light. We would ask that if anyone can come forward with new information to call 101 and we may be able reopen the investigation.”
How the assault happened
On November 2, 2011 Shannon Morgan left Neatherd High School in Dereham early because she was feeling unwell during lessons.
She cut through the parish churchyard near Becclesgate at around 11.20am and as she walked through the courtyard saw a group of men, aged between 17 and 20 sitting on a bench.
As she walked past them she was grabbed her by her hair, a man pulled her head back and punched her hard in the face causing her to fall to the ground. Then two of the men then began to kick her body, hard enough to crack some of her ribs and cause major bruising and swelling.
After the four men had walked away she had to get to her feet and walk the rest of the way home. The following day an X-ray at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital confirmed that her jaw was dislocated.
Since then doctors have struggled to permanently fix it, resulting in 23 operations over six years.