Man details horrific homophobic attack on Golden Jubilee Bridge, near South Bank

·5-min read
 (Nathan Esslemont)
(Nathan Esslemont)

A man has told of a horrific homophobic attack that saw him kicked, beaten and stripped by a gang who tried to throw him in the Thames.

Nathan Esslemont, 25, and a friend were viciously assaulted in the early hours of Wednesday, August 17, on the Golden Jubilee Bridge near Embankment and London’s South Bank.

“I honestly thought I was going to die”, Nathan told the Standard, speaking out about the incident in a bid to raise awareness of abuse still faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Two teens have pleaded guilty to robbery, while detectives hunt others involved in the attack “motivated by hate”.

Nathan had been at Soho’s G-A-Y nightclub, before meeting a friend and heading to Waterloo. But as they passed four teenage boys and a girl sitting on steps to the Golden Jubilee footbridge, one hurled a water bottle at Nathan’s friend.

Another teenager wearing a balaclava grabbed Nathan and demanded he handed over his belongings, which he refused to do.

“Then another punched me in the face, and it just escalated from there,” Nathan recalled.

“I had three people attacking me - three people stamping on my head, hitting me, and asking for my phone and my password.”

Nathan, pictured in the aftermath of the attack (Nathan Esslemont)
Nathan, pictured in the aftermath of the attack (Nathan Esslemont)

Another youth punched Nathan’s friend in the stomach, stealing his phone.

“They were just stomping on me trying to get my phone from my pocket,” said Nathan, who lives in Tunbridge Wells and works at a Tottenham Court Road food hall.

“I was trying to not let them, but I couldn’t take it anymore and gave them my phone.”

The gang beat Nathan until he gave the password to his brand-new Samsung, bought just three days before, and he verged on unconsciousness.

“They thought that they had killed me,” he said. “There was a lot of blood from my head.

“One said ‘we’ve killed him, we’ve killed him’. I was holding on for dear life and quickly made a reaction to show them I wasn’t dead.

“Then they said ‘we have to take his clothes off’. They’d hit me and were worried about fingerprints, I guess.”

The thugs pulled off Nathan’s shoes and threw them in the river, along with his jacket containing a costly new monthly commuter’s ticket.

They forced Nathan’s friend to remove his shirt, and tried taking off his trousers.

“My trousers are halfway off, I’ve no shirt on, bare-chested, bleeding everywhere,” he said. “Then one guy said ‘let’s throw him in the river so noone can find him’.

“I was horrified. In my head I thought ‘I need to get up’ but my entire body was in shock. It’s like I was paralysed.

Nathan suffered a deep gash to his head (Nathan Esslemont)
Nathan suffered a deep gash to his head (Nathan Esslemont)

“I honestly thought I was going to die.”

As one attacker pulled Nathan to the side of the bridge, police appeared and the gang fled.

Paramedics rushed him to nearby St Thomas’ Hospital where he was given a CT scan.

Nathan was left with injuries including a deep gash to his head, and a clear boot print on the side of his face, but feels he was “very lucky”.

In the days after the attack, he experienced “really dark thoughts”. “Thank God my mum was here to snap me out of that,” he said.

He still has crippling headaches and feels apprehensive about returning to London.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen again, hopefully,” he said. “But walking around London at night’s always going to be a bit of a worry for me.”

Police investigating the grim attack charged two 15-year-old boys the same day. They pleaded guilty to robbery, and have been bailed for sentencing on September 21.

Detectives continue to hunt the others responsible, and Nathan hopes those caught will be handed serious sentences.

“They were going to kill me on that bridge,” he said. “If my friend wasn’t there, 100% I would be dead.

“If they get let off with a slap on the wrist, [I] worry they’re going to do it again.”

Nathan wants to see a greater police presence in key problem spots in the area - a call echoed widely on social media, following reports of the attack.

“This area is very well-known for people getting their phones stolen, homophobic attacks, thefts, robberies,” he said.

The Golden Jubilee bridge (Google Maps)
The Golden Jubilee bridge (Google Maps)

”I also want people to be aware that this stuff happens. It’s 2022 - these things shouldn’t be happening. We have Pride every year, and this is why we need it.

“The reason I work in London and used to live there is because it is very open, diverse, and you can be who you want to be. But if this stuff is happening, is that true or not?”

Superintendent Dan Ivey described the assault as “absolutely sickening”, and “clearly an attack by opportunist thieves motivated by hate”.

Regarding the recent attack, Supt Ivey said: "I am glad officers responded so quickly and in a way which has resulted in suspects being arrested within minutes, and then charged with serious offences.

“We have deployed additional uniformed and plain clothed officers into this area in recent months to target perpetrators, and have a new, dedicated LGBT+ engagement office , who works with a range of partners to understand and respond quickly to emerging safety issues.  We also have launched a new LGBT+ Community Reference Group which enables us to discuss concerns, incidents and information impacting on LGBT+ people, shaping our policing tactics and investigations."

If you have any information relating to this incident, please contact the Met Police, quoting reference 996/17AUG22.