Designer Lee Dalgleish opens up about being brutally assaulted in the street, getting engaged to his fiance and lets rip at Roxanne Pallett for lying about being beaten

This week the country was left slacked jawed by the outrageous lies woven by former Emmerdale star Roxanne Pallett in the Celebrity Big Brother house who accused of Corrie’s Ryan Thomas of punching her like she was a punching bag. Designer Lee Dalgleish was one fan of the show who found it incredibly hard to accept Roxanne’s warped view of events, following a brutal attack he had endured that left him with life-changing injuries. Here, Lee chats about the show everyone has been talking about, his traumatic assault and the joy of being to proposed to by his gorgeous other half.

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You were recently attacked in the street – can you take us back and explain what and why it happened?

It was roughly 7.15pm on the 9th November 2017. I was walking home from the local train station to the flat. Not far from home, I’d received a message on my phone so I glanced down to read. The area wasn’t as well lit as it could have been. As I looked up from the phone, my eyes had to adjust from a bright screen to darker surroundings. At that moment I was smashed in the face. Stunned, I staggered back slightly whilst someone shouted ‘GIVE ME YOUR PHONE!’
Before I had chance to react, I was smashed in the skull. I threw my phone away from me, dropped to the floor and wrapped my hands around my head just to be sure there were no other blows.

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Yes, you can’t be too careful.

He ran off with my phone and work bag. I got up and realised my clothes were covered in blood. I could feel blood trickling but I had no idea where from. I also couldn’t really see out of my right eye. I had no means of communication, I was due to my mum’s for dinner and my partner was travelling home from Nottingham. I staggered into the road to flag down an oncoming car. They didn’t stop. I then carried on down the road. The next moment a police forensics van turned the corner at the end of the road. They stopped, got me in the recovery position, called for an ambulance, kept me focused and tried to stop the bleeding. Police managed to get hold of my mum, who contacted my partner. I was admitted to A&E where I had a gash to my skull and one just below my eye glued. The one below my eye had to be stitched a week after healing. That required the area being ‘trimmed’ with a scalpel. I had a CT scan/X-Ray to check for brain damage and fractures. The doctor was concerned there was some brain damage, a couple of fractures and a possibility I’d lose my sight.

Good God, it sounds horrific?

My injuries consisted of an orbital blowout fracture, fractured cheek, nerve damage, sight damage, large retinal tear, an iris that doesn’t respond as it should to light, scarring and a dent to the bone below my eye. I had to visit three different hospitals for my injuries. Thankfully no invasive surgery. The lesson is, don’t walk around with your phone out on your own at night. Not that it’s an excuse. No one should be attacked. Just be aware of your surroundings as often as you can!

Did the experience shake you? 

Yes. For a while, I was on edge walking home. I changed routes home and sometimes I simply ran all the way through fear I’d be attacked again. A couple of times I attempted to use an alleyway as a shortcut but I felt claustrophobic the minute I entered. Limited eyesight increased my anxiety. I’ve been assaulted before but not to this extent.

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Did it change the way you felt about the world around you?

I certainly became more aware of the increasing crime issues in the area. A young lad was stabbed to death just two streets away from where my assault and mugging took place. I did feel bitter and angry over my injuries. I feared it would affect my ability to do my job as a designer because I work at a computer eight hours a day. For a number of weeks there was a feeling of vulnerability around my injuries. I became paranoid about knocking my head incase something caved in. I know how ridiculous that sounds but I’ve never broken a bone or suffered fractures. Knowing it was a combination of cheek and eye socket, I just felt very delicate. That feeling lasted a few months until I was certain the fractures had healed. Despite the nastiness in this world, I remind myself there’s still a lot of good out there and that you can’t let the bad overshadow it.

Did it take you long to recover?

It’s been about 10 months and I’m still having hospital visits. All my injuries have settled and healed but my right eye will never be quite the same. I’m likely to have eye tests far more regularly than I would have. Initially I took half a week off work as I was having to rest my eye and recuperate. I had an eye patch for a little while. Then I was having to wear sunglasses (in winter) for a few months. I felt stupid but it was to reduce UV light getting into my eye.
Working out in the gym in sunglasses makes you look a dick. I should know. I had people approach me about the glasses once I was able to return to the gym (retinal tears mean no heavy lifting).

What are the long term after effects?

I now wear a cosmetic lens. That will be for the rest of my life. Every 6-12 months I’ll require a new one. This was the least invasive option for my eye. Other options involved having an artificial pupil surgically inserted into my eye. No thanks.

Were you angry?

Yes and no. A lot of what I felt was sadness and frustration. Frustration about having the phone out, putting myself at risk. Frustration about my eye. There was some anger, largely directed at myself. I was angry at the attacker too of course but I blamed a lot of what happened on me. I replayed the events in my head and wished I’d done things differently.

Can you forgive the person who did this to you?

In all honesty I don’t really know. I kind of feel indifferent about it. Sometimes shit happens and you have to deal with it. It’s how you deal with it that’s important. I can’t forget what happened. Am I still angry? Not really. There’s no going back. I can’t reverse what’s happened. I don’t think I could say “I forgive you” to the guy who hurt me.

How do you feel about it now?

I think I’ve made my peace with it in the sense that I’m not angry or down about my injuries. I’ve adjusted to using the lens and I still have my sight. It could have been a lot worse. I’m still breathing. I get a funky lens with a pupil painted on to match my good eye. It’s not an exact colour match but it’ll do. I’m just happy that I’m here and I have such wonderful friends and family. There are people who deal with much worse than what I went through. I’m very lucky to have gotten off so lightly in comparison.

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You got engaged recently so that is something positive. 

I’ve been with Ade for 6 1/2 years now. We met on Twitter of all places. I’ve sent him grey, tested his patience and he’s still here!  We took a trip to NYC at the end of June this year, just for a week and to see Mean Girls and Frozen on Broadway. A work colleague teased that this could be when we got engaged. I laughed it off as I was certain it wouldn’t happen.  Her prediction for how it would happen was remarkably accurate. It didn’t actually go as intended – on the boating lake in Central Park after a picnic – it was too bloody hot. But on our final day Ade turned to me in bed and asked me what I wanted to do. I suggested Rockerfella Centre for the views. He said no. After five minutes of chitchat he looked at me and said “I know what we should do today.” “What?”, I said. “Get engaged” He then got the ring (which was too big!) and I said yes whilst grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

What does marriage mean to you?

Marriage to me is about love and commitment. It’s telling someone you only have eyes for them and they complete you. You want to spend your life together on one amazing journey. Marriage has always been something I’d dreamed of but due to lack of rights at the time, I never thought it would become available. I’ve always had that romanticised dream of marriage and kids. That’s been something I’ve wanted since a child. I’m glad we now have the choice of marriage. I’ve dropped enough hints over the years and Ade’s aunts have certainly hounded him for quite some time. I was worried they’d scare him off as he has always said he would be the one to propose.

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When did you know he was the right one?

When he didn’t jump out of the car whilst I sang along to Kate Bush. I can’t quite hit the high notes. I’d say it was within the first year that I realised he was the one. Just from how he made me feel. After a bad relationship, I finally felt I could trust/love someone else. We are a day apart with our birthdays but completely opposite in many ways. As they say though, opposites attract. We compliment each other. I’m extrovert, loud, hyper and he’s more reserved, quiet and introvert. Over the last six and a half years he’s been there for me through family members passing and he made me feel better after everything I endured with my assault.

Like everyone else in the UK, you’ve been watching Big Brother. Have you found the whole Roxanne storyline uncomfortable? 

Watching the events unfold on television, it was very much a ‘what just happened?’ moment for me. In fact my partner and I rewound to watch the scenes over again as we couldn’t quite believe what we had just seen. It just didn’t add up. Directly after the alleged assault took place, Roxanne was laughing, joking and walking off with Ryan. There was no flinching. Then of course over roughly 48 hours more started to unfold and with each scene involving Roxanne, we just stared at each other in disbelief.

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Did you believe what she was saying?

It did appear she was playing a game and trying to turn housemates and (not sure if intentionally) the general public against Ryan. It’s been very compelling viewing this series. I tend to dip in and out of the celeb series but this one has had me hooked. I’m disappointed that Roxanne walked purely for the fact there will be no eviction interview. She’s taken the coward’s way out and essentially snuck out through the back door.

People are suggesting that we should be supportive of Roxanne as she is clearly in need of help – are we too fast to explain bad behaviour as mental health issues?

In regards to bad behaviour/mental health, I think as a society we are more prepared to look at why people behave badly and look to determine its origin. We have more answers than a few decades ago in regards to mental health issues and are finally looking to help many people who need it.  Is it always due to mental health? I don’t think so. Possibly some instances it’s just an excuse for bad behaviour. You’ll always have some people who make excuses for the way in which they behave.

But she does need someone to take her to task, right?

I do think someone needs to sit her down and have a very honest, firm chat with her. I don’t know her as a person so it’s difficult to gauge exactly what she’s like as a person from limited footage on a reality TV show. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be challenged and criticised for her behaviour in this instance. It did cross my mind that maybe she’s convinced herself that she was assaulted. We all know with each series of the show there’s some form of game playing at hand or people put in the house to stir things up a little. Whatever the reasoning behind her actions, I think she’s critically damaged her career. Can she salvage it? Time will tell. Does she deserve threats that have allegedly been made on social media? No. I don’t blame people being angry though. She’s brought these angry responses on herself. But threatening violence isn’t the answer.

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Do her claims of abuse undermine the ordeals people who have undergone terrible forms of violent attack?

I think so. It can be very hard for people to come forward with (for example) domestic abuse. To lie about something so serious and put someone’s career at risk is not easily forgivable. I know in the past she has spoken about being abused, which makes it all so much more perplexing. She knew what she was doing when she made these accusations. Real victims don’t need someone crying wolf as it makes their claims harder to believe. You’ll have people doubting what they went through.