Two "quiet" schoolboys were put through a horrific ordeal as an armed gang of older youths beat them with a wooden bat and forced them to jump into a canal.
Ryan* (not his real name) had his head cut open, leaving him covered in blood, while Jake* (not his real name) was punched and struck to the arms with the bat, their parents said.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW
The vicious attack occurred at around 6.30pm last night on the canal towpath close to Netherton Activity Centre, Netherton, and involved a gang of around 10-15 youths with their faces masked.
Both boys, aged 14, were robbed of their trainers while Jake had his phone and Airpod earphones stolen.
In a cruel blow, for Ryan this was the second armed robbery he had experienced in the space of a few weeks after having his bike stolen at knifepoint.
His mum, who works in a care home, told the ECHO: "A few of them were out on their bikes and then they left them at a friend's house and went for a walk.
"As they were walking along these lads, about 10 to 15 of them, appeared and jumped them. Three of [the victims] got away but poor Ryan and Jake took the brunt of it.
"Apparently they had axes but they hit them with some sort of wooden bat or pole, Ryan said it was similar to a chair leg or something.”
Ryan later spent six hours at Alder Hey Children's Hospital having his head wound glued, and has been left covered in bruises.
His mum said: “We were having a nice afternoon in the garden, he had left about 4.30pm.
“About 7pm I heard voices coming in so I went to the door and that's what I was confronted with, he was stood there covered in blood, and a man had taken him home.
“I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. The poor kid's bike was taken about two months ago, he had a knife pulled on him.
“He's just a quiet lad, and he rarely even goes out, and when he does it is usually just for a couple of hours and he's always back by 9pm. He's just not one of those type of kids.”
Ryan's mum said there are suggestions a group of youths had been heard “bragging” about the attack and that police had been made aware of names.
Jake's mum said the boys had just been “minding their own business” when they were set upon by the gang, who were all wearing face coverings and gloves.
She said: “They had axes and we heard the police recovered a knife nearby.
“I haven't slept all night. It could have been so much worse, I could have been going to see my son's corpse in the morgue.
“He's very shaken up, but I think he's putting on a front at the moment, he's a tough lad.”
Ryan's mum added: “It's just getting worse around here. You don't know where it is all going to end.”
Merseyside Police are investigating the matter and have been approached for a statement.