REAL LIFE

Bashed at the traffic lights

Leigh was simply buying a treat for her kids when she ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Leigh Barham, 38, Sunshine Coast, Qld

‘Two Happy Meals please,’ I called out. It was Australia Day 2011 and I’d just popped to our local McDonald’s with my two sons, Jai, then 10, and Taj, then six.

After spending the day at a mate’s barbecue, my mum, Darelle, then 56, had picked us up in her Mitsubishi wagon. ‘Can we stop for a burger Mum?’ Jai asked. I’m not normally one for buying fast food, but my boys had been angels all day and they deserved a treat.

But as Mum pulled into the restaurant carpark, I sighed. A long line of cars was snaking around the building. We just had to wait our turn. Fortunately, the queue was moving quite quickly and after five minutes Mum drove up to the window and we ordered.

‘Hurry up you b*tch!’ he yelled.

Then, I allowed my mind to drift while we waited for the cars ahead of us to move so we could pick up our order from the next window. But suddenly…

Beep! Beep! Beep! The peace was shattered by the sound of a loud car horn. Turning around in my seat, I looked through the rear window. A man had opened the door of his blue Suzuki Sierra and was leaning out of it honking and screaming profanities in our direction.

‘Hurry up you b*tch!’ he yelled. I realised in horror he was shouting at us. ‘What’s happening, Mum?’ Taj asked nervously. ‘Don’t worry, kiddo.’ I told him ‘He’s just being impatient.’

The stranger kept beeping as we crawled forward in the line and picked up our meals. By now he was starting to make me nervous. He seemed so angry but I couldn’t work out what we’d done wrong.

Trying to ignore him, we waited patiently at the pick-up window for the car ahead to drive forward and merge onto the highway so we could get moving. By now, the boys were tucking into their meals and we all jumped in surprise when the beeping started again.

Leigh and her mum, Darelle.
Leigh and her mum, Darelle.

‘Just ignore it,’ I said to Mum. The angry man obviously wanted us to move so he could pick up his food too but we had no way of getting out until the other car left. Turning to check on the boys, I realised in horror the man had now left his car and was marching angrily towards ours.

I didn’t have time to react before he appeared at my window, swearing and violently kicking the outside of the car. I cowered as he leant forward and spat viciously at the glass before walking back to his car. Fortunately, just then the traffic began moving.

‘Go, Mum, drive!’ I yelled. What was happening? I felt so confused. What was his problem? I was just trying to buy some burgers for my boys.

As we drove away, I tried to relax. But just 100 metres down the road, I heard Jai’s terrified voice. ‘Mum, he’s coming!’ He was right. The blue 4WD was behind us again.

I cowered as he leant forward and spat viciously at the glass

It’s okay darling,’ I soothed. ‘It’s just a coincidence.’ But as the headlights of the Suzuki moved closer, a sense of dread started to form. Could he really be coming for us? I wondered. I was about to find out…

As we stopped at a red light, the Suzuki zoomed forward before veering off to the left and stopping beside us. The next thing I knew, the man was rushing over, his face twisted with rage. I could hardly believe what was happening as he wrenched open my door and pulled me out onto the road.

Suddenly his fists were flying towards me and he was striking blows at my face. I’m just 152cm and he towered over me before lifting me up and throwing me on to the road like a ragdoll.

‘Mum!’ Jai screamed. Looking up, I saw his terrified little face against the window. The man heard him too and briefly stopped his attack on me to turn towards the car and smash his fist against my son’s window. Miraculously, the glass didn’t shatter, but I knew I had to do something.

Troy Shane Kuskopf
I yelled, furious. ‘Can’t you see there are CCTV cameras everywhere?’

‘You’re not going to get away with this!’ I yelled, furious. ‘Can’t you see there are CCTV cameras everywhere?’ My words must have struck a nerve because suddenly the stranger stepped away from me. Then before I knew it, he got into his car and sped off.

I was left in tears as Mum helped me back into the passenger seat of her wagon. We quickly called the police, and I arranged to meet them at the nearest service station while Mum took the kids home.

Within minutes I was tearfully recounting the road rage ordeal to an officer. My mouth had taken the brunt of the violent attack. It was swollen and my front right tooth was wobbling loosely in my gums. I felt I’d had a lucky escape but knowing my attacker was out there somewhere was awful.

…my front right tooth was wobbling loosely in my gums.

Weeks passed and although the police were able to identify the culprit, for a long time they couldn’t locate him. I felt like he was lurking in every shadow. Living in a constant state of fear, I couldn’t continue my job as a youth worker and my boys couldn’t get in the car without checking the locks and windows.

After nine long months, my attacker was finally arrested in Toowoomba and charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. On January of this year, Troy Shane Kuskopf, appeared at Maroochydore Magistrates Court. Although I was there, I couldn’t bear to look at his face.

Four months later in May, Kuskopf, then 37, was sentenced to two years in jail and ordered to pay me $1000. The magistrate in the case described his assault on me as ‘disturbing and serious’.

The sickening thing is that Kuskopf didn’t even turn up that day. Even though he was convicted, he has evaded the police and there’s currently a warrant out for his arrest.

It’s terrifying knowing he’s out there on the run. I don’t want to live in fear but it’s hard not to when the man who attacked you is free to strike again.

A case of mistaken identity
Troy Shane Kuskopf’s no-show in court has caused a lot of suffering for another Sunshine Coast resident who shares the same first and last name. Troy James Kuskopf, 31, has been mistaken online for the criminal and has even received threats. ‘It’s been a nightmare, I’m nothing like him. I am a peaceful and non-violent person. I hope that Troy Shane Kuskopf turns himself in and puts an end to this,’ Troy told that’s life!.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 27, 2014.

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