Wollongong bashing victim: I didn't know whether I'd live or die

African refugee Tumezghi Tesfay stands in the laneway where he was brutally bashed last year, five days after he arrived in Australia. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

African refugee Tumezghi Tesfay stands in the laneway where he was brutally bashed last year, five days after he arrived in Australia. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Illawarra man jailed nine years for 'sickening' refugee attack | video

Wollongong refugee attack: co-accused jailed for 2.5 years

Wollongong refugee attack: how they were busted | new video

When African refugee Tumezghi Tesfay came to Australia from war-torn Eritrea last year, he hoped for safety.

Instead, he was viciously attacked outside Wollongong train station only five days after he arrived.

It is an ordeal he is still trying to overcome as he settles into the Illawarra eight months on.

"I am very scared because if you see my country, a fight is normal, but here I was expecting a peaceful, loving country," he said through an interpreter.

His said his attackers, Timothy Williams and Jaimee Lee Haynes, both deserved to be imprisoned.

Williams was sentenced to nine years' jail while co-accused Haynes was jailed for 2½ years on Friday.

The pair's unprovoked assault was caught on CCTV, but Mr Tesfay said he could not watch the video because it was too distressing.

"I didn't know I was damaged like that," he said. "When I saw the news I couldn't believe it.

"It was upsetting to watch the footage. I didn't see all of it, I switched it off."

The video showed Mr Tesfay walking past the station - he was on his way home from the library - when Williams and Haynes pulled him into a laneway.

They asked for money.

He responded by digging out a few coins from his pocket.

"I couldn't understand what was going on," he said.

Williams then pulled out a credit card to show him, momentarily distracting Mr Tesfay.

It was then Williams struck.

He threw a vicious punch at Mr Tesfay's head, sending him sprawling backwards onto the pavement.

Williams then subjected Mr Tesfay to a frenzied attack, punching him at least 17 times in less than a minute.

"I didn't know whether I'd live or die," the refugee said.

"The punch was very heavy on my face.

"I couldn't control myself and I fell down."

He was robbed of $60, a bracelet and his prized possession - a necklace with a crucifix from his godfather.

"It was very important and valuable to me," he said.

"No-one gave it back."

His tooth was also knocked out and he needed stitches in his left ear.

The 25-year-old could barely remember staggering home and alerting a friend to help him.

"I am very surprised how I escaped from them and went home," he said.

Mr Tesfay said he never expected such brutality in Australia.

He was grateful, however, for the outpouring of support from the community.

"These people have an open heart, they heal my pain," he said.

"I want to say thank you for their messages and goodwill."

Supported by Illawarra Multicultural Services, the refugee is hoping for a happier resettlement this year.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop