Three men have said they have been targeted with homophobic attacks – including being punched, spat at and called a f*ggot – while walking their dogs in Burgess Park, and locals are worried police are not doing enough.
The alleged attacks, which were all thought to have be done by the same person, were reported to police over a period of several months from July 2021 to last Saturday (January 29).
Two women have also told the News that they were verbally abused by the same man, with one claiming he called her a c*nt as part of a longer foul-mouthed tirade.
The incidents appear to have come when the two dogs that were being exercised by the alleged attacker behaved aggressively towards people or their dogs, which has led to the alleged attacker confronting the victims, they say.
In perhaps the worst incident, local resident Stuart Meader was walking his dog near the BMX track in the park in October last year with his friend, when the man allegedly walked up to him with his two dogs off the lead.
“As he walked, he was looking at me,” Mr Meader said. “He said ‘Who are you? F*ck off, you gay c*nt. You’re a f*ggot.’ Then he punched me in the neck.”
He said that he called the police straightaway, but an email seen by the News shows that officers had dropped the investigation by early December, citing a lack of evidence.
“What does it take?” Mr Meader asked. “Is it going to get to the point where someone is seriously hurt?”
Mr Meader’s friend Thomas described the man as “wielding [his dogs] like a shield as he progresses through the park”.
Thomas, who is also gay, said that the homophobic abuse was bad, but that he was more concerned about the “aggressive” dogs and the possible harm he feared they could to other dogs.
The most recent alleged incident last Saturday was when a man, who did not want to be named, was walking his French bulldog in the park near the kiln with his partner.
“[The alleged attacker] came out of nowhere and spat at us and called us a pair of f*ggots,” the victim said. He also contacted the police about the attack.
The earliest homophobic incident reported to the News was in July last year, when another victim called Harry was walking his French bulldogs when the alleged attackers’ dogs started to attack them.
“I called the guy over and told him to get control of his dogs… he started to get close to me and told me to ‘go f*ck in the bushes, catch some AIDS and die.” Harry also reported this incident to the police.
The man’s alleged violence stretches back several years, victims said – who included two women who also walk their dogs in Burgess Park.
Jennifer, who lives in Camberwell, said that the alleged attacker, whom the victims describe as about 5ft 4inches and in his late 30s or early 40s, screamed that she was a c*nt in March last year.
“I was running through the park with my dog when his dogs attacked me,” she said. “I couldn’t get away. I asked him to put them on a lead and he shouted ‘your dog needs to be muzzled, you f*cking c*nt.”
“To scream that a woman is assault,” Jennifer said. She added that she now keeps her walks in the park to a minimum out of fear of running into the man.
Her friend Tracey, who is 58, now also avoids Burgess Park as much as possible after an alleged incident in late 2020 where the man started approaching, and extending the lead of one of the dogs towards her. She asked him what his problem was – and he said “you’re my problem”. Tracey said that the man told her that he hoped she died. Neither Jennifer nor Tracey reported these incidents to the police.
“I was all shaken up… it’s been going on for a while,” Tracey said.
The victims of the man’s alleged violent and abusive behaviour, most of whom know each other slightly from dog walking in the park, are calling for the police to investigate these incidents more thoroughly.
Thomas said he didn’t understand how police had not dealt with the issue yet. He added: “The question we’ve been asking is – should you put in that call? Are you just making effort when you should be running?
But he urged people to keep reporting the incidents. “While you may not get the individual response you want, I think you should report it, so they can see the bigger picture of what is going on.”
Officers agreed. A spokesperson for the police said: “Police are aware of a pattern of incidents and are working to identify the suspect. They encourage anyone with information which may assist a prosecution to report it to Faraday Safer Neighbourhood Team, or using reference 3002813/22”