'No one flinched': Woman describes racist attack on her and 11-year-old son on crowded train

May Bulman
Ms Lusandu said they were abused by four men last Saturday as they sat on a train from Leeds to their hometown Bingley

We were coming back from a campaign event for the3million in London. We were on our second leg of the journey. We got onto the train from Leeds, planning to stop in Bingley.

My son and I sat down. There weren’t many people on there at that point, but it started to get packed. Then the four men came in. All middle-aged white men. They were quite loud and sweary from the beginning. They sat down – not altogether – one behind me, one on the seats next to us and the other just opposite.

One of them kept looking at us, and then he stood up. He stood over me and grabbed the back of my head and pulled it towards him so he could look down at me. He shouted: “No surrender.” His demeanour was aggressive.

I know the origin of this is football and Ireland, but when someone says “No surrender” I think about the EDL. It really scared me – I can’t even explain it. He wasn’t saying that to give me a history lesson. It was clear from his demeanour that it was about him having power. I was scared.

And then he sat next to me and looked at my son. He said “f****** P***”, looking straight into his eyes. Then he tapped his head. It wasn’t in an endearing way; again, it was about power. He stood back and said “f****** P***” again. No one on the train flinched. It felt really lonely.

Then he turned around to me and he said: “We will also trolley you out of the UK.” It was at that point that a young woman – I don’t know if she saw everything or where she came from – came and sat next to me so that her back was to the men.

She started to talk to my son about the magazine he was holding – distracting him. The men were still saying stuff, this time to her. She got a lot of stick from them. They were making sexual connotations towards her, saying they’d pay her to do stuff… Nobody else still said anything.

The woman said she was getting off at Shipley, the next stop. She asked if we wanted to get off too, and we did even though it wasn’t our stop.

When we got onto the platform my son went into a complete meltdown. He was sobbing. While I was focused on him she said she had to go. Because I was dealing with my son I didn’t think to take her details.

I called the British Transport Police hotline and they were nice. They took some details about what happened and told me they were going to send someone to come take a witness statement on Sunday. We got a taxi home.

My son didn’t sleep well on Saturday night. On Sunday we had a good chat and he was obviously upset, but he seemed more worried about me. He asked me to speak to his school because he was still upset on Monday morning.

I stayed at home all day on Sunday waiting for the police to come and take a statement. But by 5pm nobody had turned up.

I was told they were coming and would call me, but nobody called me – nobody came. On Monday morning I called them again and said nobody has turned up. I was told they would call me back. They didn’t call back.

On the Tuesday morning I spoke to the Racial Justice Network and they tweeted the British Transport Police (BTP), giving them a nudge. Within half an hour the BTP called me to say: sorry we haven’t called you, but the investigating officer is going to be in touch soon.

The officer called me on Tuesday afternoon. They were not compassionate – they were just very focused on facts. They asked me to repeat everything again over the phone. I wasn’t sure why I had to give all the details again.

He kept interrupting me when I was explaining what was said. He said he didn’t understand how that was offensive. He said: “How is ‘No surrender’ offensive?” He asked why the deportation threat was offensive. I had to explain.

We weren’t referred to victim support. At no point were we asked how we felt. I know there are the facts, and obviously they need that, but to me this was surprising.

I asked whether they were going to come to do the written statement. He said they weren’t going to come now and that they would only come if they get the people identified. They told me they hadn’t looked for the CCTV yet.

I told them I was feeling let down that we hadn’t been asked about the impact it had on us. The officer responded – in quite a patronising tone. “I know a thing about crime investigations,” they said.

At this point I had to call a friend. I questioned whether I was being a troublemaker. Was it me?

But a lot of people have since come and said to me they have had the same experience, others have struggled to log it as a racially aggravated incident. I work extensively with EU nationals, and there are a lot of people who have been victim to incidents but not many of them actually report it.

But then if you report and get that kind of treatment, why would you?