Tributes paid to a blind man who died after assault on his doorstep in West Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 12:37 21 December 2012

Douglas Hutchison was known as Professor Whitestick

Douglas Hutchison was known as Professor Whitestick


Tributes have been paid to a man – affectionately known as “Professor Whitestick” – who died two weeks after he was allegedly attacked on his doorstep in West Hampstead.

.Partially sighted Douglas Hutchison, who walked with a white cane, was on his way home on the evening of November 29 this year when he was involved in an incident outside his front door in Goldhurst Terrace.

He died in hospital from head injuries last Thursday, two weeks after an 18-year-old man appeared in court charged with his attempted murder.

Known to many in the community by his witty moniker, Mr Hutchison, was a prolific arts blogger.

But his passion was making art more accessible to the blind and his cultural knowledge was unmatched, as well as his love of colourful hats.

“He always had a hat of some sort,” said Toby Davey, deputy director of Visualeyes, who came to know Mr Hutchison through their events.

“He was always so approachable and just a really nice guy. He came to everything. A lot of people knew him through tweeting and his blog posts.”

Neighbour Jo Gold, 51, who saw Mr Hutchison moments before the alleged assault, said he was wearing his trademark white Panama hat that day.

Mr Hutchison offered all kinds of helpful advice on Twitter from philosophical musings on the Dutch masters to practical advice for people with eyesight problems.

Six days before his fatal injury as heavy rain fell around the country, Mr Hutchison wrote: “Take care out there today – in the streets. Lots of mushy leaves and detached recycling bags to add to your journey.”

He also joked on his blog he liked old TV programmes but preferred the radio because “the pictures are better”.

Kate Gosling, a visitor service assistant at the Wellcome Collection, recalls the art blogger talking to her about an overgrown holly bush that made it difficult for him to walk down the pavement.

“I mentioned that I knew of one too, that my daughter could not scooter through and we wondered if it was Camden’s duty to cut it or his neighbours. It was then that I realised we were talking about the same holly hedge on Priory Road.

“I felt that he had a great sense of community within Camden and the next time I passed I took some trimmers and was going to prune it back for both our benefits.”

She added: “We were very fortunate that he chose to visit the museum and the energy that he brought with him.

“He will be very much missed and my thoughts are with his family.”

Tim Sommer, an 18-year-old German national, is charged with attempted murder. He is in custody and due to appear at Blackfriars Crown Court in February, but police said the date is likely to change in light of Mr Hutchison’s death.

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