A man feared he had been permanently blinded after he and his partner were targeted with pepper spray in a suspected homophobic attack in London.

The couple were waiting at a bus stop in Lambeth’s Brixton Road when the stranger doused them without warning.

The assailant, who was with four friends, told them: “We don’t want your kind around here.”

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

From
15p
€0.18
$0.18
USD 0.27
a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

Speaking out about the incident, Matthew – who asked not to give his last name – 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. I thought I was going to be blind. The pain was just really intense.”

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

2/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

3/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

4/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

5/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

6/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

7/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

8/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

9/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

10/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

11/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

12/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

13/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

14/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

15/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

16/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

17/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

18/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

19/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

20/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

22/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

23/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

24/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

25/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

26/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

27/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

28/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

29/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

30/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

31/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

32/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

33/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

34/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

36/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

37/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

38/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

39/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

40/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

41/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

42/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

43/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

44/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

45/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

46/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

47/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

48/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

49/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

50/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

1/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

2/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

3/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

4/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

5/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

6/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

7/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

8/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

9/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

10/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

11/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

12/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

13/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

14/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

15/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

16/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

17/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

18/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

19/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

20/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

22/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

23/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

24/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

25/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

26/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

27/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

28/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

29/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

30/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

31/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

32/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

33/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

34/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

36/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

37/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

38/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

39/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

40/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

41/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

42/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

43/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

44/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

45/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

46/50 20 August 2019

Police officers gather to pay their respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, where Thames Valley Police officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, died on Thursday. Jed Foster, 20, has appeared at Reading Magristrates’ Court where denied any involvement with the murder

47/50 19 August 2019

A fire that broke out at the site of Village Bakery on Coed Aben Road, Wrexham Industrial Estate in Wales

48/50 18 August 2019

England fielders crowd Pat Cummins as he see’s out the final over during day five of the second Ashes Test match against Australia at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The test ended in a draw

49/50 17 August 2019

Glew (centre) and Monroe Adams (right) pose for a selfie with a member of the public outside DragWorld London 2019, Europe’s largest drag convention, featuring drag stars from the US and UK during a two-day event at Olympia, London

50/50 16 August 2019

A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

Such was the seriousness of the attack, the couple had to be rushed to hospital by paramedics to have their eyes medically cleaned.

Now, with the attacker still at large following the 19 January incident, the 23-year-old has spoken of the ordeal for the first time as part of a police appeal for information.

He said the assault had left he and his partner, 22, worried about going out.

“We won’t hold hands, we won’t show any kind of affection to each other. It’s not really fair we can’t do that because we’re worried,” he told the Press Association news agency.

But he also added: “Gay people are a thing. We’re not going away no matter how much you attack us or abuse us.”

Detective Inspector Dave Adams, of London’s Metropolitan Police, appealed for witnesses.

He said the five men were inside the nearby KFC restaurant 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,” he said.

Independent news email

Only the best news in your inbox



Please enter an email address
Email address is invalid
Fill out this field
Email address is invalid
Email already exists. Log in to update your newsletter preferences



Register with your social account or click here to log in



Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Police also believe the men were involved in an earlier assault on two people inside the KFC but that incident was not being treated as a hate crime.