Three friends have spoken of their horror after they were subjected to a brutal homophobic attack in Blackpool.
Joe Clarke, 22, was walking home after a night out with two of his friends when they were set upon by thugs in Topping Street just before 5.30am on Saturday.
He was left battered and bloodied after one of the attackers stamped on his head.
Police say the trio had homophobic abuse hurled at them by the men shortly before the unprovoked and violent attack.
Joe, who suffered facial injuries and a damaged eye socket, has said he now feels unsafe in his hometown.
The bar worker and personal assistant said: “We went on a night out after work. I was nearly home when a man shouted homophobic abuse at us.
“I got punched by a man to the side of my face and I then fell on the floor unconscious.
“My friends told me a man then stamped on my head. It’s been really painful. I just don’t want to be anywhere near where it happened.
“I was planning to move out of Blackpool anyway but after this I’m trying to speed up the move.
“I just want to know why they did it? I have never had anything like this happen to me before. It has just made me feel so unsafe.”
Summer Tarrant told The Gazette how she was forced to watch helplessly, as she lay injured on the floor, while a man stamped on her unconscious friend’s head.
The 20 year-old said she had been left ‘heartbroken’ by the attack, during which she was hit in the face, and said she now feels unsafe outside her home.
David Westworth 24 who was attacked alongside Joe and Summer has told how his confidence has been knocked by the incident.
He said: “We’d all been out and had a great night in town. We were walking back to Joe’s when these men started shouting homophobic abuse at us.
“They were walking towards us and I tried talking to them and got smacked in the mouth and punched in the face. I fell to the floor and they kicked me in my ribs and stamped all over me.
“I was lying on the floor scrunched in a ball trying to protect my head and face with my arms. It was awful.
“When I managed to sit up I could see Joe lying unconscious with blood dripping down his face.
“I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I didn’t know if he would come round or not.
“It’s bang out of order and completely unprovoked - they should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
“It could have been so much worse. I’ll think twice before going to bars outside the gay scene in Blackpool now. It’s a shame because I’ve had good nights out there before and now I feel restricted. “
Nina Parker, pastor at Blackpool’s Liberty Church and an active supporter of the gay community, said: “It’s very disappointing because Blackpool is known as a gay-friendly town.
“People see verbal abuse as something that’s almost accepted, which is appalling.
“Nobody should have to put up with verbal abuse just because of who they are.”
She said many people still find it hard to report abuse but said she encourages people to report all incidents.
“If it’s happened to you, that person might do it to somebody else,” she added.
She praised how police in Blackpool have dealt with homophobic incidents in the past. Alternatively there are a number of third party reporting centres, including liberty Church, that people can use rather than going to police directly.
A police spokesman said: "We were called to reports of an assault.
"The offenders are believed to be men in their mid-late twenties.
"The victims suffered numerous injuries as a result and attended Blackpool Victoria Hospital for treatment. We believe this is an isolated and unprovoked attack."
Police are investigating the incident and would urge anyone with information to call police on 101 quoting crime reference WA1803410.