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John O'Groats to Land's End charity man James Tofalli vows to continue wheeling his piano after terrifying late-night tent attack

By Alasdair Fraser

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Piano James
Piano James

A recovering addict pulling a piano the length of Britain for charity is vowing to carry on the quest despite a terrifying late-night attack in Inverness.

James Tofalli (29), known as Piano James on social media, says he was set upon and dragged from his tent in Inshes during the early hours of Sunday.

The talented musician, from Kent, was given permission by friends to camp outside their home on communal grass at Miller Street, near Sir Walter Scott Drive.

Having suffered mental health issues since youth, Mr Tofalli preferred sleeping in a tent as his “safe place” during the epic John O’Groats to Lands End challenge.

The trauma left him physically unharmed but in distress, although he has chosen not to report the incident to police.

After the tent was destroyed, the assailant is said to have apologised and offered to pay for damage on realising who his victim was.

Mr Tofalli’s exploits for mental health and autism charities have captured the imagination of many thousands on social media under his banner of “music saves lives”.

A video of him tinkling the ivories at Dores beach by Loch Ness went viral.

Towing his 270kg piano on an electrically-assisted trolley, he reached Corran village in Lochaber recently but had returned to Inverness for repairs.

Mr Tofalli spoke to the Courier by text message yesterday, confirming his determination to battle on in his challenge.

Describing himself as “not ready for interview”, he referred us to posts on Facebook, including an emotional video.

The posts describe how he was woken by a man shouting and screaming, who then tried to drag him into his nearby house.

The damaged tent by homes at Miller Street
The damaged tent by homes at Miller Street

There were “threats to kill and threats of slashing me up” before Mr Tofalli fought free.

Mr Tofalli said: “I’m alright – it didn’t actually physically hurt me. The tent is replaceable.

“But it was totally unnecessary, ripping someone from their tent who had already agreed to move.

“I’m angry, really angry. It was just so messed up. At the end, he was like ‘I wouldn’t have done it if I realised it was you’. That means anyone else who is homeless and in a vulnerable position (he) would have done it to them.

“As quick as it started, it stopped, by which point he was offering to buy me a new tent because he knew who I was.

“What if it had been a young girl or a kid of 16 in a genuinely vulnerable position? How can you treat anybody like that?”

Mr Tofalli, a former chef, became addicted to the ‘zombie drug’ Spice, but went cold turkey in 2015.

The causes he is raising cash for are close to his heart given his own damaging experiences.

Explaining how Sunday's attack had “ruined so much”, he said: “Tents have been my safe place for a long time because of trauma I've had inside houses. Now I feel that has gone.

"What (he has) done to my confidence is unspeakable. I'll continue my journey, but I'm going to be doing it without a tent.

“I have not informed the police. What's done is done, and it is about dealing with it. I wasn't injured and, in my eyes, there's plenty of more severe stuff going on for them to deal with.”

Mr Tofalli set off in April this year and hopes to reach Land’s End early next year.

He has raised £4,072 to date. His Go Fund Me page can be found here.

Related story: Piano James dodges potholes and police on charity trek

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