Moment man hits neighbour in the face and calls him 'Manchester bomber' in vile attack

A man has spoken out on the "heartbreaking" Islamophobic abuse he suffered at the hands of his neighbour. Gareth Locke was taken to court and fined for hitting Jamie Abdullah in the face and calling him a "Manchester bomber" in a religiously-aggravated assault.

Mr Abdullah, a 50-year-old furniture maker, was attacked by next-door neighbour Locke, 48, at around 11.41am on October 7 last year outside their homes in Maesycwmmer, Caerphilly county. Locke's words linked him to 2017's terrorist suicide bombing of the Manchester Arena simply because of his faith. "It breaks my heart that because I'm a Muslim I'll always be seen by some people as a part of what happened in Manchester," he said. "It's really sad."

The assault, which was caught on CCTV, happened when Mr Abdullah had been jet-washing his car and Locke had walked past. Locke claimed some water from the jet-washer had hit him. Mr Abdullah denied spraying water at Locke and felt it was an excuse for him to "kick off" and hurl religious abuse. He said Locke came up "very close" and called him a Manchester bomber before hitting him in the face and ramming him backwards into a hedge. Locke then put Mr Abdullah into a headlock, shoved his head onto the pavement, and held him down.

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The attack lasted close to a minute and ended when neighbours pulled Locke away. Mr Abdullah said he was punched two to three times and left with a black eye, cut lip, sore ribs, and a graze from where his head hit the pavement. "I was a boxer for a couple of years so I could have hit back," said Mr Abdullah. "I don't punch people in the street."

Locke was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with religiously-aggravated assault, which he denied. In the Newport Magistrates' Court trial Mr Abdullah said: "I told police that as a learning curve I would like an apology. That's all I've ever asked for. I'm not vindictive. He didn't want to do that. I don't believe he truly believes I'm a Manchester bomber but it is said to provoke. This is someone trying to start an altercation."

Following his arrest Locke had told police: "I did call him a Muslim today and he said to me I was being a racist. I said I was not being a racist and he said I was a nonce. When he called me a nonce my f***ing head went. How would you like it?" Mr Abdullah denied using that word towards Locke.

Locke, of Springfield in Maesycwmmer, was found guilty by District Judge Charlotte Murphy. She ordered him to pay £100 in compensation, a £50 fine, and £650 in prosecution costs. He must also complete a 12-month community order with 10 days of a rehabilitation activity. Speaking after the sentencing Mr Abdullah said the abuse was nothing he had not heard before but he feels such language should always be called out to prevent it being normalised. "It's a pebble in the water," he said. "It has a ripple effect. It keeps you awake at 3am.

"Any time you hear about something like a bombing on the telly you know there are people who would make a remark [about Muslims]. If someone of my religion does something, which clearly I don't believe they should, then when you go out you are going to hear about it. I used to work in a factory and I have had issues like that at work before. People are entitled to their opinion but when it's being used for abuse it makes life much harder.

"I definitely wouldn't have been able to sleep if Gareth had got a custodial sentence. I don't want anybody life's life to be ruined. I hope the course will get him to understand you can't just do these things. That's all I can hope for."