Shocked relatives of a pensioner left critically injured in an attack on a Rotherham street said he is a 'gentle and unconfrontational' grandfather.
The 81-year-old, with four children and 12 grandchildren, was on his way to morning prayers when he was found slumped on the ground with serious head injuries on Fitzwilliam Road, East Dene, at 5.25am yesterday.
Detectives believe the ‘vulnerable’ victim was attacked between 3am and 4am and fear they could have been dealing with a murder.
The OAP suffered life threatening head and facial injuries but is showing a slight improvement in hospital, where his condition is critical but stable.
Detective Sergeant John Yoxall, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “The main focus of our work is to identify anyone who may have been in the area around the time of the assault. We now believe the victim was attacked between 3am and 4am and was then unconscious for a period of time before he was found by police officers at 5.25am.
“In the early hours of Monday morning the area around Fitzwilliam Road and ‘Mushroom Roundabout’, where we believe the assault has taken place, would have been very quiet. I believe anyone in that area would have been quite conspicuous.
“I am looking for anyone, particularly taxi drivers and shift workers, that may have been driving past in the early hours of the morning and seen anything to contact police and speak to me.
“There’s little doubt that if the victim had not been found by officers this could have been a murder inquiry.
“I can assure the local community, who I know are understandably concerned by the incident, that all the necessary resources are being put into finding those responsible for this vicious assault.”
The victim's son, Yoseff Francis Ahmed, branded the attack on the elderly man as 'disgusting' and urged anyone with information to come forward.
He revealed that the OAP was on his way to his daily early morning prayers when he was targeted.
Mr Ahmed said: "This disgusting crime should be seen for what it is. A terrible crime which we hope will not take his life or his quality of life away.
"We hope that after all these years he would be safe taking his morning walk to prayers but unfortunately these days society can't guarantee that to any of us.
"My father is the beloved grandfather to my seven children and they have only recently seen him. His nature is gentle and unconfrontational so it's shocking and sickening that they couldn't get whatever they were after by merely asking."
He said he hopes the attack does not turn out to have been racially motivated, with his father having moved to England in the 1950s and setting up home in East Dene, where he raised his family.
"The only way around this is through faith in God and humanity as the good people of Rotherham are showing. Most people are not criminals regardless of creed or colour," he added.
"Should they turn out to be racially motivated we wouldn't dream of labelling everyone so whatever they turn out to be we need to remember they are criminals of the lowest order, hope justice is served and that inside they become known as OAP bashing thugs so they remain in the lowest order.
"Lastly I would ask that where possible people remain vigilant and if you hear or see anything that looks wrong report it to the police.
"That's the way to stop crime and criminals acting with impunity."