BYU basketball player Chris Collinsworth of Mapleton, UT and a fellow missionary, David Ferguson of Great Falls, MT, suffered multiple non-life threatening stab wounds while returning to their apartment on Tuesday night (October 14th) in Sydney, Australia, where they are serving missions, the LDS Church confirmed Wednesday. Full story by the Salt Lake Tribune. Additional stories by the Deseret News, the Mormon Times, the Provo Daily Herald, and KPAX Channel 8 in Missoula, MT. I have still found no Australian media coverage so far.
Both missionaries were transported to a nearby hospital after being attacked by "at least three men," in a section of Sydney known as "Little Lebanon," according to Collinsworth's father, Jeff Collinsworth. Discussion on Free Republic confirms that the area of southwest Sydney in question is dominated by Lebanese, although the ethnic identity of the attackers has yet to be confirmed.
Collinsworth and Ferguson were jumped from behind by three men, believed to be in their 20s, about 8:30 P.M Australian time as they were walking back to their apartment. When the first attacker jumped on Elder Collinsworth's back, he flipped the assailant over his shoulder and onto the pavement.
As Elder Collinsworth was busy fighting off the first attacker, a second man then began assaulting him. When Elder Ferguson tried to pull the second attacker away, the third man stabbed and slashed both of the missionaries with a small knife. During the tussle, the attackers managed to pull Elder Collinsworth's shirt up over his face and tackle him to the ground. While on the ground, and with his shirt over his face, Elder Collinsworth was kicked and slugged repeatedly. Fortunately, a man passing by in a car saw the scuffle, pulled his car up and shined his headlights toward the attack — which scared the assailants away.
Ferguson, 21, is still hospitalized after undergoing surgery for mutliple stab wounds and lacerations. He is expected to be released soon. Collinsworth, a 6-foot-9 forward from Provo High who played for the Cougars last season before departing on his two-year mission, received one deep stab wound to his back and various other lacerations and bruises and was held in the hospital overnight before being released to the mission home Wednesday morning.
A former Salt Lake Tribune 4A basketball MVP, Collinsworth played in all 35 games last season and averaged just under 16 minutes per game, scoring 3.2 points per game and grabbing 4.8 rebounds per game for the Cougars.
BYU basketball coach Dave Rose, who was informed of the attack while at Tuesday's Mountain West Conference basketball media day in Las Vegas, issued a statement on Wednesday. "I have had the opportunity to speak with Chris' family about what happened and share my feelings and concerns for the well-being of both Chris and one of his fellow missionaries. It's a very unfortunate situation and my thoughts and prayers are with both families that are dealing with this right now.....Chris is a great young man who is proud to be serving his mission. I am sure he will rise above this and respond in a positive way as he does with everything else in his life."
Ferguson is not Collinsworth's "regular" companion because the missionaries were on "splits" that day, a situation where missionaries trade companions for a day or two. Collinsworth intends to remain in Australia and finish his mission. He has been out six months.
The motive for the attack remains unclear. No money was taken, and no anti-Mormon sentiments were expressed by the attackers. However, there have been two recent confrontations in Sydney between U.S military personnel and local residents. First, a sailor from the USS Peleliu was charged with aggravated sexual assault in an incident Saturday October 11th at a brothel in Sydney, Australia. And in a second incident on the same day, a U.S. Marine, also from the Peleliu, suffered a fractured skull after a seemingly unprovoked attack while on shore leave in the city’s red-light district, according to Australian police. The Peleliu and the destroyer USS Halsey arrived Friday in Sydney for a port call while returning from the Persian Gulf and about 3,000 Marines and sailors disembarked.
Because the missionary haircut is similar to a military haircut, it is possible that the attackers thought the missionaries were U.S. troops on shore leave and decided to get some "payback". This does not excuse the attack, but merely provides some extra insight until the attackers are apprehended.
But the relationship between white Australians and Lebanese in Sydney has been fractious at times. After years of unrequited abuse and criminality from anti-social elements with the Leb community, to include the abuse of white Australian women on Sydney's beaches, young Australian white men finally had enough, and in December 2005, 5000 of them stormed Cronulla Beach and took it back from the Lebs. Since then, the Lebanese community has been somewhat better behaved.