|Shane Berwick with his father, Colin, and mother, Terry.
TORONTO - They want to know when this will finally end.
Colin and Terry Berwick have just marked four years since they received the phone call that all parents dread.
Their son Shayne, an apprentice electrician who’d gone up to Lake Simcoe to fish with his buddies, was now lying unconscious in Sunnybrook Hospital and they’d better hurry: the doctors didn’t think their 23-year-old was going to make it.
So many hours and days of agony have passed since then. A coma that lasted more than three months, a son who woke up not remembering who they were or even who he was, a brain so damaged he no longer knew how to read, how to dress, or even how to walk.
“And for what?” demands Terry, 47. “Because his friends were Asian?”
The shocking case is still too ugly to believe that it happened just an hour north of the city, and not in some backwater hillbilly county in the deep south.
On Sept. 16, 2007, Shayne and his pals had dared to go fishing near Sutton and three truckloads of local hoodlums took offence, throwing two of them into the water.
They call it “nip-tipping” and since 2007, there have been more than 25 similar attacks on Asian-Canadian anglers.
Shayne and three of his buddies tried to leave in their Honda Civic. A local motocross racer, Trevor Middleton, 20, gave chase, repeatedly ramming their vehicle with his pickup until he ran their car off the road and it slammed into a tree.
Shayne was thrown 27 metres out of the Civic. Middleton didn’t call 911.
Instead, he drove off, called a friend and later sauntered back to the scene after emergency personnel arrived.
“Extremely heartless,” says a disgusted Colin, 52. “To leave someone out there. He’s lying in a ditch, bounced off a tree, bleeding out and you’re driving away in your truck?”
Trevor Middleton (striped shirt) leaves Newmarket Court with his friends November 26th, 2009. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel, file)
On Dec. 15, 2009, a Newmarket jury convicted Middleton on four counts of aggravated assault and two of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The Crown asked for a sentence of eight to 10 years. Instead, citing his youth and lack of a record, Justice Alfred Stong gave him just two years less a day.
The lucky guy should have taken the sentence and run.
Instead, he appealed his conviction and has been free on bail since March. And so another court date loomed over the Berwicks, adding to the stress they already endure providing the round-the-clock care their son requires.
Still, they persevere, this incredibly, strong duo of optimism, working tirelessly to bring Shayne back to some measure of the young man he used to be.
He’s defied the odds every time — surviving when doctors gave him just 10% odds, walking when they predicted that he’d never get out of a wheelchair.
It took him a year and a half, but he’s now learned his alphabet. He’s working on memory exercises that will give him more than the two or three minutes that he can now recall.
“He’s going to need 24-hour care for the rest of his life,” Colin explains, as his 27-year-old smiles a child’s sweet smile, oblivious to what’s happened to him. “But we’re never, ever going to give up on him.”
Every day, every hour, is a struggle. They accept that now.
What they can’t accept is that the young man who destroyed their son’s life is still going about his own, still unpunished for what he has done.
And incredibly, the stalling continues.
They were all set to be at the Ontario Court of Appeal last week — Middleton to fight his conviction and the Crown to seek a harsher term.
Instead, the Sept. 30 hearing was postponed after Middleton’s lawyer asked for an extension. Now they’ve been warned the appeal probably won’t be heard until next spring, making it a year that he’s been out on bail.
“We need closure. We need for him to pay for what he’s done,” Terry says. “It’s a smack in the face, this justice system. It’s a joke.”
For Colin, Middleton’s punishment isn’t difficult to calculate: “He should be in jail for as long as it takes Shayne to get back to what he was.”