Gay couple pepper sprayed while kissing at bus stop in London
4 October 2019, 20:34 | Updated: 24 October 2019, 11:06
The victim of a suspected homophobic attack in London has told how he feared he would never regain his sight after being pepper sprayed.
Matthew, 23, was with his partner at a bus stop on Brixton Road in Lambeth on January 19 when they were assaulted.
He said: “We were being quite affectionate to each other, kissing, holding hands... and then suddenly from nowhere this guy just came and sprayed something directly in my eyes,
"I fell to the ground. I thought I was never going to see again."
They were left on the floor "incapacitated," added Matthew, who did not want his full name to be revealed.
"I thought I was going to be blind and the pain was just really intense, like my whole face," he said.
The 23-year-old remembers the man, who was with a group of four other men, saying "we don't want your kind around here" during the attack.
A member of the public helped the couple to a nearby restaurant to wash their faces before paramedics arrived.
Matthew's partner had to be taken to hospital to have his eyes cleaned.
More than eight months later, police still have not found the group of men while Matthew and his partner remain cautious about going out together.
"We won't hold hands, we won't show any kind of affection to each other," he said.
"It's not really fair we can't do that because we're worried."
The 23-year-old believes the attacker was not accepting of gay people.
"It's just something that was obviously deeply rooted inside him about hating gay people," Matthew said.
"Gay people are a thing. We're not going away no matter how much you attack us or abuse us."
Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Dave Adams called for witnesses to come forward to help with the investigation.
He said the five men were inside KFC shortly before the attack and were near the bus stop when one of them ran and sprayed Matthew and his partner.
“We particularly want to identity the man wearing a beanie hat," DI Adams said.
Police believe the men were involved in an earlier assault on two people inside the KFC but that incident is not being treated as hate crime motivated.
Detective Constable Amy Cross described the attack on Matthew and his boyfriend as "completely unprovoked".
"Both the attack and the homophobic motivation of this assault are abhorrent, and I appeal to anyone with any information that could assist the investigation to come forward," she said in a statement.