After a fun Sunday night drinking and doing karaoke at the Blue Anchor Pub in Porstmouth, Hampshire, a group of eight women were heading home, singing “I’m in the Mood for Dancing,” when a group of men outside the S2 Club took immediate interest in their existence. The men began hurling homophobic abuse in their direction. And then, almost immediately, the verbal abuse turned into a physical attack.
The victims were 23, 24, 25, 27 and 32. By request, their names have not been given to the press.
The men kicked and punched and stomped on and at the women. One was punched in the face, leading her to lose seven teeth and gain a broken jaw. Another woman was pummelled in the chest, leaving bruises. Two got black eyes. Another has a bruised kidney and liver as well as a dislocated knee and shoulder. One woman told BBC South, “They were just punching me, kicking me, pulling my hair, grabbing me inappropriately and calling me a dirty dyke.”
The men hurled one woman against the shutters of a nearby shop after punching her repeatedly, and she recalls, “‘I just remember trying to protect myself. They were trying to get me on the floor. There was blood everywhere.”
A victim’s sister told The Portsmouth News, “‘The men had got off the girls but they were still hitting the older woman, I’d say at least 20 or 30 times. I was begging them to stop. It wasn’t until they heard the sirens that they threw her and ran off. They dropped her like she was nothing and ran back into the club. I turned around and one was stamping on a woman’s head. Another girl was fitting on the floor. It was horrendous, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve had nightmares.”
It’s unclear how many men were involved. Most headlines and stories, including Logo, Pink News and The News, cite “a gang of 15 men” responsible for the attack, but the BBC has written that the victims “say they were set upon by seven men who shouted homophobic abuse before kicking and punching them.” Other reports say 20-30 men were involved.
In a statement to the press, the women reported being emotionally and physically scarred from the event: “All involved have been left with injuries and many left emotionally scared. We are angered but overall we are fiercely upset. Innocent women trying to get home to their families should not be disgustingly attacked due to being homosexual.” Simply being visibly gay was enough to make these women the victim of violent homophobia.
The Hampshire police said they are “investigating an altercation between two groups at about 11.25 PM on April 16th.” Three men in their mid-twenties, from London, were arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. A Portsmouth 27-year-old was arrested on suspicion of affray. They remain under investigation at this point but have all been released. Facebook commenters on the BBC South’s interview with victims, as well as commenters on other news posts about the crime, seem preoccupied with an allegation that the men involved were Polish.
According to the BBC, the Hampshire Constabulary “has appealed for witnesses to come forward,” but the Constabulary’s website reveals no such appeal currently posted. According to LGBTQ Nation, victims have been in touch with the Police’s Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officer.
BBC News South reports that the victims and their friends have been disheartened by police response to the incident, telling them: “I don’t think they handled it well at all. We was telling the police who assaulted people and they let ’em go in taxis. No other witnesses got called to give statements. There was 20-30 men involved – I don’t understand how only four has been arrested.”
Another victim recalled: “They’ve handled it completely wrong, they didn’t even come over and check if we were OK. There was no photos taken of the injuries. I’ve been groped and grabbed as well as the other girls. We should have had a female officer there.”
A statement of response from the Hampshire police declares: “We have explained our complaints procedure to the victims as they have indicated they are unhappy with the response they have received. If a formal complaint is made we will investigate thoroughly.” The police told the BBC that “homophobic crimes are treated with the upmost seriousness” and that “several lines of inquiry are ongoing.”
The victims took pictures of their own injuries. I have not included said photos, but you can see them here.
The crime happened in public, with multiple witnesses, and police arrived on the scene within ten minutes… yet, somehow, nobody has been charged with a crime.