London Man May Be Blind After Being Sprayed in Anti-Gay Attack
Doctors say a man sprayed with ammonia during an anti-gay hate crime, which occurred outside a popular nightclub in south London's gay district Sunday, may be blind, the U.K. newspaper the London Evening Standard reports.
The unidentified man is one of three victims who were sprayed with a concentrated ammonia solution in what the Standard calls a "premeditated attack" on June 8 around 4 a.m.
Local police on Monday released images of a bearded man and two younger women who may be connected to the attack, which happened outside the Lightbox club in South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall.
The victim, 23, and his male friend, 21, started talking with the two women outside Lightbox after they were turned down at the door because the club was about to close. The Standard reports that when one of the women, allegedly from Eastern Europe, found out the two men were gay, the women started screaming anti-gay slurs.
"As we walked away I heard a man shout 'Oi! Come here.' At first I thought it was the doorman saying he'd changed his mind and we could go in," the victim told the newspaper. "Then I saw this white guy with a beard, and his hand coming up with a water bottle that he squirted really hard into my face. It went right in my eyes and it sprayed into my friend's mouth."
The victim added: "My face was burning so much, I thought it was acid. I thought I would never see again and my face was melting. He poured every last drop onto us and then turned around and walked away, like it was mission accomplished. The chemical burnt the cornea in my left eye and the vision hasn't cleared since. The doctors said it should hopefully return, but there is no guarantee."
He said his friend's tongue "was swollen and it looked like someone had scratched part of it away. It was horrible." The victim also said he feels the incident "was a hate crime given where we were and the situation with the two girls."
"What's playing on my mind is the fact that this guy has left his flat and thought 'wallet, keys, bottle of bleach,'" he continued. "The guy has gone out with the intention of blinding someone."
Minutes after the victim and his friend were attacked, a third man nearby was sprayed with the chemicals. Authorities say they believe it was the same man.
"In the first incident, at approximately 4 a.m. on Sunday, the substance was sprayed at two men outside the Lightbox nightclub in South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall," a spokesman for Scotland Yard said. "This followed a verbal exchange between the two men and a group outside the venue. Following comments made during the exchange, this incident is being treated as a homophobic hate crime.
A short time later, police were made aware of a third man who had also been sprayed in the face with a substance in the vicinity of the nightclub. No motive is known for this incident," the spokesman continued. "All three men were treated at a hospital and their injuries are not believed to be serious. Officers believe the same man was responsible for both incidents."