Matthew Syron, 32, was glassed by stranger Gareth Dean, 37, during a night out in Revolución de Cuba, in Leeds, with a group of friends. He was rushed to hospital after the attack on Boxing Day, where he had surgery on his eyes that has meant he’s been able to regain some sight in his right eye.
Matthew, originally from Leeds, moved to Wollongong in Australia in 2012, where the law there is that they stop serving glasses and bottles from 9pm. They also scan the ID of everyone in a bar and now Matthew is calling for the same to happen in the UK for bars and nightclubs.
His attacker admitted grievous bodily harm with intent and could face life in jail. Ex-Leeds Rhinos rugby player Matthew is calling for a change in the law to stop such an attack happening to anyone else.
Speaking ahead of the attacker’s sentencing, he said: “I have never seen anyone in Australia get glassed – I have never even heard of it. But 87,000 people get glassed in the UK every year – it’s a sickening number.
“None of this would have happened if it this rule was over here – nobody would do this at 6pm. They get rid of glasses before you’re even drunk. I would never want anyone to be in my shoes.”
Matthew was walking back from the toilet when he was attacked by Dean – who he says he’s “never met”. He said Dean “smashed the glass through his face” which left him instantly blinded.
Matthew said: “I was having a good time – it was Christmas and I was on holiday so things were going great. I asked the bouncer where the toilet was and I went down.
“I was then stood at the bar and a guy had followed me with either a glass in his hand or a bottle – we aren’t too sure which one. He then leaned over my shoulder and smashed the glass through my face – instantly blinding me. I’ve never seen the bloke in my life, I have no idea who he is. Someone would have seen me speak to him if I had, but nobody did.”
Matthew is hoping to have another surgery, where doctors will double check his retina is attached, in a couple of weeks. He then hopes to have a cornea transplant when he’s back in Australia but there’s ‘still no guarantee that will work’.
Matthew said: “I was blind until my next surgery – which was a couple of weeks after it happened. I was then able to see a little bit of light out of my right eye. I can sort of now see where I am in a room and see figures, but I’m now going to see the surgeon about a third operation.
“My left eye is going to be covered by a patch – there’s no real use for it anymore and I can’t really see it anything out of it. I’ll then have a cornea transplant which should hopefully get me some vision back. There’s still no guarantee that will work though.”
Matthew came over on December 14 last year to visit his family but now he’ll be in England for the next couple of months. He was only able to be reunited with fiancée Keone Rawiri, 31, last week and still hasn’t seen his two children Brixon, two, and Mika Rose, 11 months.
Matthew, who owns a electrical business in Australia, said: “I’m spending as much time as I can with Keone really. I dream about my kids nearly every other day – it’s insane. They are asking where daddy is and now they are asking where we both are, because Keone has come over.
“It’s honestly soul destroying being away from my kids for this long, especially because of the circumstances. I don’t live here anymore, my home is Australia and I’ve got my own family now – I just want to get home.”
Matthew ran an Ironman Triathlon, which is considered as one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world, just weeks before the attack. He’s now trying to get back to training as best he can, so he is able to ‘get back to his normal life’.
He said: “I’ve been through a lot but if I didn’t have positive people around me, including my beautiful kids and partner, then I wouldn’t want to be here. The first couple of weeks were so tough, it’s honestly soul destroying.
“I was living in a nightmare – I was going to sleep and dreaming about darkness and I was waking back up in darkness. They were unbelievably tough but I got through that.
“I’m trying to get back to my normal life – my brothers are getting me up in the morning and we’re going to the gym so I can go on a treadmill and do some weights. I’m having an ice bath straight after that so I’m trying to get in a good routine really. I’m doing exactly the same as I would do if I was back home.”
Dean, who has previous convictions for violence, admitted grievous bodily harm with intent when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court on February 1. He was told by Judge Tom Bayliss KC he could receive a life sentence for the attack and will be sentenced on March 4.
Matthew agrees with this because he feels like Dean would have “done this to someone else~” if he wasn’t there.
He said: “He deserves it – imagine if he did this a couple of inches down into my neck, he would have killed me. I think he has intentionally gone out to ruin my life. I relive the moment and I dream about it most days. I’m in this circumstance now and I have to deal with what’s next – I can’t change anything.
“If I didn’t go out, then this would have happened or if I had got a taxi earlier, then it wouldn’t have happened. There’s many circumstances that I can go through but if it wasn’t me, then it would have been someone else.”