Gay army veteran thwarts vicious homophobic attack on London bus

Ella Wills

An army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland has told how he stepped in to stop a vicious homophobic attack on a London bus.

Former Grenadier Guardsman Lee Wardle, 40, who served for 14 years, was caught up in a violent clash on the N87 in Lambeth as he made his way home from work at a gay bar in central London.

Mr Wardle, who works as a bartender at Halfway 2 Heaven in Trafalgar Square and is himself gay, said he heard a man shouting homophobic abuse down the phone as he travelled on the bus towards Clapham Junction shortly after 4am on Sunday, March 25.

Mr Wardle, from Vauxhall, said he overheard the man "having a really loud, obnoxious conversation using a lot of homophobic language" and when he asked him to stop, he tried to hit him before attacking another man, named Adam, on the bus.

Former Grenadier Guardsman Lee Wardle, who stepped in to thwart a homophobic attack on a London bus

The other passenger was “repeatedly punched and knocked unconscious,” Mr Wardle said.

Police have released CCTV images of the suspect, described as a black man with a shaved head and goatee beard who was wearing a smart blue suit, black shoes and grey scarf.

Manhunt: Police have released a CCTV image of this man following the incident (Met Police)

Mr Wardle, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and won a medal for his service in Northern Ireland in 1997 and 1999, told the Standard: "A guy was sat on the top deck just in front of me having a really loud, obnoxious conversation using a lot of homophobic language.

"The man was talking about having been to a gay club or bar, but he seemed to have gone there “with the view to pick up women”, he said.

Mr Wardle, pictured here during his time in the Army, now works as a bartender at Halfway 2 Heaven in Trafalgar Square

"He had some sort of altercation with an individual about this."

He added: "I think he said faggots should be killed. It was very distressing language."

Mr Wardle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and won a medal for his service in Northern Ireland in 1997 and 1999

Mr Wardle asked the man to stop, and the other passenger, Adam, joined him. However, the man then turned on them both.

Shocking footage recorded by a third passenger showed the moment the suspect punched Adam in the side of the head, knocking him to the floor.

Mr Wardle is then seen shoving the suspect away along the aisle of the bus.

He said: "He didn't hit me, but he went for me and I warned him that it wasn't a good idea. I'm quite a tall guy.

"Adam was a smaller and easier target. He was punched repeatedly and eventually knocked out."

Scotland Yard issued an appeal to find the suspect last Friday. Mr Wardle said he wanted police to catch their man before he hurts anyone else.

He said: "I just want him caught before he seriously hurts somebody.

"This guy needs educating. He can't think that he has got away with it. I refuse to let him think that he has got away with it."

The veteran said he stepped in because "nine times out of 10, people don't stand up to this".

He added: "I have heard it all before, but I was concerned that there were other people on the bus.

"Usually in London no-one bats an eyelid. They would rather keep out it, which is really sad.

"It's a discrimination in a different outfit."

Scotland Yard said there have been no arrests.

The Met said in a statement: "The assault happened at around 4.15am on Sunday, 25 March on board a N87 bus on Wandsworth Road, SW8.

"Members of the public were seated on the top deck of the bus when they overheard the suspect sitting in front of them swearing and making homophobic remarks.

"When asked to refrain from making such remarks, the suspect then proceeded to assault three passengers on the bus.

"The suspect is described as a black man with a shaved head and goatee beard wearing a smart blue suit, black shoes and grey scarf."

Detective Constable Sarah Bunting of the Met's Road and Transport Policing Command said:

"This man is sought in connection with a homophobic assault on a bus.

"If you know who this man is, or may be able to assist us in our investigation, please call 101 and quote CAD 1045/25Mar18.

"The Met will not tolerate any form of hate crime and we strongly urge anyone who has been a victim of this sort of situation to call police and report it."