The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, has been left with life-altering injuries after the confrontation on May 11. Over three months on, despite steps now being taken to investigate the incident, he said he is “giving up hope” of the perpetrators being brought to justice.
Josh (not his real name) was in the Saloon bar near the centre of Skopje, North Macedonia during a trip to the country. He was drinking with friends when a group of four men he says were visibly intoxicated walked in “looking for a fight”, he later realised.
After hearing them speak English, he attempted to make polite conversation, and he said the men identified themselves as members of the 16 Air Assault Brigade and said they had been “deployed here on some training”. Two days later, on May 13, the 16 Air Assault Brigade were named by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as having been deployed to North Macedonia for a NATO training exercise.
Josh said: “The second I spoke to them, they were just so immediately physically intimidating and verbally aggressive – and behaved like that towards other people. They were just there to find someone to fight and hurt.”
Josh had “no interest” in the aggressive behaviour, and so moved to the back of the bar. When he and one of his friends left the bar again fifteen minutes later, he said, they launched an attack.
READ MORE: British Army soldiers allegedly beat and stabbed Briton
Josh said one of the assailants cracked his head against the curb, leaving him with a brain injury he is still suffering from now, and he has had to take significant amounts of time off work. He says he was also stabbed in the left hand with a broken beer bottle wielded by one of the men.
In an email dated May 23, the MoD said that North Macedonian authorities had obtained CCTV footage of the incident “which shows an individual being head-butted.
“The footage also shows that individual several minutes later launching an attack against the original assailant.” It added, though, that the MoD “is not in possession of any evidence”.
Josh said that no one in the group of friends he was with that night recalled head-butting anyone – throwing into doubt the nature of the footage – but added that he could “easily imagine someone else squaring up to them as the group bore down on them”. He believes there was CCTV footage of the altercation, as well as eye-witnesses.
A source inside the country’s prosecutor’s office said that it was only on July 27 – the day after this website first contacted them – that an official notification was received from the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs including preliminary evidence and some footage. The source said before then, they had received no evidence from the police.
The earlier statement from the MoD also suggests that the North Macedonian authorities did nothing with the footage they did have for at least two months.
An MoD spokesperson previously told Express.co.uk that as of July 29, the Royal Military Police had not yet been asked for support in the case by the North Macedonian authorities, but would provide identities of suspects when invited.
However, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said this week the British Army had since “formally requested” a copy of the CCTV evidence “in order to identify the soldiers involved in the event”.
They added: “If the request is approved, the video material should be given to the representatives of the Military Police of the UK Armed Forces so they can perform the identification in the UK and according to their national law. The public prosecutor in charge will review the request and decide.”
The spokesperson said the incident remained classified as a criminal act committed by “unknown perpetrators”. A source inside the prosecutor’s office previously argued was a sign the Royal Military Police were “obviously not cooperating” – a claim the MoD contests.
Josh said he was “very frustrated and disappointed that I’ve had to go to the press” to get his case taken seriously after more than two months of apparent stalling.
He added: “To be honest, I’ve lost hope and believe on a fundamental level the Army accepts a certain level of violent and aggressive behaviour towards civilians.”
Three months on, and Josh said he is still feeling the debilitating effects of the concussion. He recently joined a seniors mobility class “as it’s all I’m up to at the moment”, led by a former British soldier.
He said the former soldier had asked him what a man decades younger than everyone else was doing in the class. After Josh explained his story, the ex-squaddie “replied that he was angry that there were still soldiers giving the force a bad name”.
A British Army spokesperson said: “We are aware of allegations made against service personnel who were deployed on exercise in North Macedonia. The Royal Military Police continue to work with the relevant Macedonian authorities in support of their investigation.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”