Derry woman unable to return home after racist and homophobic attack

A Derry woman has been unable to return to her family home after her house and a car was vandalised in a racist and homophobic attack.

A man covered her home in eggs, yoghurt and faeces and also wrote homophobic and racist slurs on a car that was parked in the driveway of the family home in Hazelbank, where she lived with her family and her young daughter. She has since moved house and can’t bring herself to return to the home she lived in since she was eight.

She said: “On July 11, my mammy got a phone call from my neighbour to say we needed to come home, that there was an incident and his car had been involved. My mammy was staying in my grannies house that night and I had been away for a few days so my neighbour had parked his car in our drive. When we got to the house, we saw there was a huge mess with broken egg shells and yoghurt drinks thrown around the car and the house. It was only when we went to go into the house that we saw that there was poo on the handle and the door knocker. Our neighbour had already cleaned his car because he had to go to work but he told us that a homophobic slur and a racist slur had been written on the car. We realised then that it was a targeted attack so we took pictures of everything that had happened.

“Not long after that, we phoned the police who came and took a statement from each of us and, luckily, our neighbour had CCTV outside his house and we were able to get a photo of the person who did it. There was a balaclava found outside the house so the police took that for evidence but the results came back inclusive because there was more than one person’s DNA on it. The police officer who was in charge of the investigation was able to get the CCTV footage enhanced and put it through their system to see if he had any previous conviction or if he was known to the police and nothing flagged up. When I found that out, I decided to look at other options and put it on social media.

Egg splattered on the wall of a Hazelbank home, where a woman was victim of a racist and homophobic attack.

“It feels like he has won and it will always feel like that until he’s been charged for it. I had been planning to move house before this incident and this pushed things along but I haven’t been back to my mammy’s house since. I have no plans to go back. I’ve lived there since I was eight.

“This was targeted harassment. He packed his bag and he went out to do this in the middle of the night. He didn’t just walk around and find an empty house, he planned it and targeted my house. I have no idea who he is so how does he know me? What does he want from me? Where did he get my address? Why me? There are other gay people in the town but he chose me. I have a lot of questions.”

This is the first time the woman has fallen victim to a racist attack of this severity but, unfortunately, she is subjected to racist remarks and comments far too often.

“People who say that Derry isn’t racist don’t have to experience racism,” she said. “It infuriates me when people say they are shocked by this because you will not come across a single back person who lives here who hasn’t experienced racism. Every single person. People don’t understand that racism is a scale. There are extreme issues, like what happened to me in July, and then there is casual racism. Casual racism is constant. I don’t remember the last time I was on a night out where I didn’t have to experience some type of racism. It’s not hard-line, getting beat up or having someone attack my house but it’s casual. There’s questions like asking where I’m ‘really’ from, asking what language I speak, touching my hair.

Egg shell left on the home of a woman in Hazelbank, where she lived with her mother and her daughter. The woman's house was attacked at around 5am on the morning of July 11 in a racist and homophobic targeted attack. The woman has since moved house and she has felt unable to return to her mother's home.

“There needs to be a light shone on the island of Ireland. There’s something strange about being in a country where 98% of the population is white. You can spend your whole life living in Ireland and never have experienced a friendship with a black person. Never experienced living next door to a black person or gone to school with an Asian student - some people spend their whole entire lives here in Northern Ireland without experiencing diversity. I think that’s what makes people ignorant because they take influence from other white people. That means that it’s the white people who decide what is and isn’t racist. That’s where the problem is.

“I’m so glad that I have the friends that I do. I feel like I’m so lucky I don’t have to internalise it all because my friends understand that casual racism is a big deal. I think, through my childhood and teenage years, I internalised it all and pushed it down and it wasn’t until I started surrounding myself with other marginalised people that I realised that this was very stigmatising. Meeting the friends that I have now and exposing myself to other marginalised people was the thing that made me realise that if you’re uncomfortable, you can say something about it. Being able to challenge people on what they say will make where we live a safer place for generations to come because then they’ll give a second though to what they say.”

Sergeant Clive Bruce from the PSNI said: “There is no place for hate in our communities and, as we continue to investigate this incident, we are appealing for anyone with information, or anyone who knows who is responsible to come forward and speak with us.

“Our officers can be reached by calling 101, quoting reference 1893 of 11/07/22.”

A report can also be made online via our non-emergency reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/ or call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.