One punch can change everything. Although it's over in a second, its power to devastate lives can be felt forever.
Majinder Randhawa lives with this impact every day. She vividly understands how ferocious the pain is when you lose a loved one to a senseless act of violence. She was there, around her brother’s bedside, when they turned off his life support machine.
Her nightmare started in the early hours of Oct 12, 2011 when two police officers knocked on the door of her family home.
She said: “I saw them through the window and woke my sister and we both answered the door.
“One of the officers asked if this is the residence of Jagdip Randhawa. The fact that they were at our doorstep and asking about my brother at that time of morning; we knew it was bad news. They came in and told us to sit down. They told us that Jagdip was in Leeds General Infirmary with serious head injuries and we needed to get there as soon as we can.
“My sister and I woke my parents. I remember how quiet it was, we all got dressed, they didn’t ask anything more, no one said anything. We left to drive from London to Leeds.
This was the beginning of our whole world tipping off its axis and for everything to change beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Jagdip, 19, had been punched by a man and hit his head on the concrete causing a traumatic brain injury.
Majinder said when they arrived at the hospital, they were immediately taken to a waiting room.
She said: “Someone came in and said that Jagdip had suffered serious head injuries and that he was in a coma and seriously ill. My mum kept asking to see him, but doctor said that we first had to prepare ourselves for what we would see as he was on a life support machine and there were a lot of wires and monitors surrounding him.
“I remember walking up to where he was and there were so many machines. He had a tube in his mouth, more tubes in his arms, wires stuck to his chest and there were so many beeps and buzzes from the machines.
The most precious person in our lives was lying in front of us and there was nothing that we could do to help him.
The family sat in the waiting room for five days, hoping, praying, begging the doctors to save Jag’s life. Jag’s friends from university, from home and his family were all squashed into the small room willing him to pull through, to get better. Jag never regained consciousness.
On the morning of Oct 17, a doctor came into the waiting room and told the family that they had tried everything and that Jagdip was not going to survive his injuries.
The medical team explained that they couldn’t keep him on life support any longer and would be stopping all medical treatment. They told the family it was time to say goodbye.
Majinder said: “We were all around his bedside. My mum was holding his hand and was kissing his cheek when they turned off the life support machine. I can’t remember how long after this the nurse came over and said that Jagdip had died.
In Punjabi, the word ‘Jag’ means ‘the world’. Jag was the youngest member of my family.
He came along when my parents’ other children were older and we all saw him as a huge blessing. We all watched him grow up from a baby to a young man. He really was our whole world.
“Jag was 19 years old when he was killed; he will now forever remain 19 years old. All the milestones in life that his family will never have the pleasure to share with him – his 21st birthday, his graduation, him getting his first job, getting married, having children.
“All of this has been taken from him and from us. He was just starting the path to his life. All the hard work he had done at school meant he was at university becoming the man he wanted to be; it was his time.
“The pain that we feel is indescribable; we are crippled with it and see no way out of it. Every aspect of who we were, and how we were, has gone now that he has gone. Our lives are plunged into darkness, we cannot move forward, we cannot live a life that will reflect the fun-loving bright personality he was because we miss him too much.
“We feel like there is no family, there is no future, there is no hope. All our plans, hopes, and dreams died when Jag died. He was taken from us in a senseless, senseless, way.”
During the criminal trial that followed, the family learned that the man who killed Jag was a professional boxer. He had many prior convictions for violence and the night he punched and killed Jag, he was on bail for another alleged assault.
Majinder said: “Jag was killed for absolutely no reason at all by someone who had the skills to inflict maximum damage on another human but none of the discipline that a professional boxer should show. Jag’s death was an utter waste of life. We suffer the consequences of his death every day.”
Majinder is now supporting Headway to raise awareness of the dangers that one blow can carry.
Majinder said: “I would hope that the message that is understood from sharing our story that throwing just one punch can have devastating consequences. One punch can kill someone. I hope it would urge people to stop and think before a situation escalates to the point where they think it can only be resolved by violence.
“That one heated moment in time will ruin many lives including that of the perpetrator who has to live with the knowledge that they are responsible for taking someone’s life. There needs to be a serious debate on this issue and the sentencing of such offences. The sentencing guidelines at present are very lenient. It sends out completely the wrong message and is not a deterrent.
The repercussions from a one punch death are forever. No one escapes from its aftermath unscathed.
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