AN OLTON man who was set upon by hooded thugs and nearly drowned in a freezing canal in an unprovoked attack only escaped after speaking to them in Arabic.
College lecturer Lee Skinner was jogging along the canal towpath near Acocks Green at around 3pm on Sunday, January 15 when five hooded youths blocked his path.
The 38-year-old father-of-two was punched in the face so hard that he was knocked backwards into the icy water.
Lee said: “I sank down and then swam to the surface and was unable to breathe or speak due to the cold.
“I lost my glasses and my keys and phone were water damaged.
“I tried to swim back to the path, but the youth who punched me remained and was clearly waiting for me to reach him so that he could strike again.”
At that point the quick-thinking former languages teacher tried to reason with his attackers in Arabic.
He began making a declaration of faith, proclaiming ‘There Is No God But Allah’, which caused the gang to panick and ran away.
“When I began shouting at then in Arabic, my attacker’s face changed to one of panic and the five boys ran away,” Lee added.
“I climbed out if the canal, cutting my legs as I did so and called the police on a dog walker’s phone.”
Lee was left hospitalised with damaged teeth, bruising and injuries to his cheekbones and neck muscles.
Police are hunting for the suspects, who are all believed to be around 17 years-old.
A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: “Police were called to the Grand Union Canal in Acocks Green where a jogger was punched by a youth as he ran past him on the towpath.
“The man fell in the canal and was prevented from getting out by his assailant. He swam to the other side where he was able to get out and seek help from a passerby.
“Officers arrived within minutes and the man was later treated for bruising to his face. Officers searched the area and have trawled CCTV but the offender has not been traced.”
Wishing Mr Skinner a speedy recovery, a spokesperson from Stratford College, where he currently teaches, described him as a ‘highly popular’ member of staff with an ‘exemplary’ approach to working with students.
Anyone with information on the incident should call police on 101.