NSW Police have arrested and charged a 17-year-old male with the the robbery and assault of a gay man during Mardi Gras weekend, one of a string of robberies he allegedly committed just hours before the parade.
Nicholas Bucknell, 29, told triple j’s Hack he was ambushed, attacked and robbed by a group of young men in the Redfern area in the early hours of Saturday morning and was unable to march in the parade because of his injuries.
“I was trying to catch an Uber… but I couldn’t get one so I thought I’d walk up to the main street and that’s when the attack happened,” he said.
“A group of about five young people surrounded me all of a sudden… one of them punched me and knocked me onto the ground, they then started stomping on my head.”
He said the attackers demanded he hand over his phone and wallet but once he had, they then started assaulting him.
“I managed to get away two or three times and each time they ran after me, got me back on the ground and started stomping on my head again,” he said.
“I was thinking, ‘This is it’, that I was going to die.”
As a result of his injuries, Bucknell was unable to march with teammates from the Melbourne Surge water polo team and the Sydney Stingers water polo team as part of their Mardi Gras float.
Melbourne Surge President Cal Hawk and Sydney Stingers Stephen Timbrell wrote on Facebook they were “shocked, saddened, and infuriated” by the violence and wished Bucknell a quick recovery.
NSW Police said on Wednesday the attack was one of a string of aggravated robberies the 17-year-old had been charged with, but they had “no information” the attacks were motivated by homophobia.
Less than an hour later, a 29-year-old man was approached by four males and allegedly punched, before his bag, containing cash, an iPhone and other personal items were stolen.
The man was also taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for treatment to facial injuries, including a broken nose.
Just ten minutes later, a group of four men allegedly approached a 42-year-old man down the street, before assaulting the man, stealing his wallet and bag and fleeing the scene.
The 17-year-old boy was arrested by police in Surry Hills yesterday afternoon and has been charged with robbery in company (x3).
“It will be alleged the robberies and assaults were opportunistic in nature and there is no information to suggest they are motivated by gay-hate bias,” a police spokesperson said.
“Inquiries continue and police would like to speak to three males who may be able to assist with the inquiries.”
NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Crandell told Hack on Tuesday police were reviewing assaults before, during, and after the Mardi Gras parade on Saturday night.
“Where evidence is available of attacks upon members of the LGBTIQ communities motivated by homophobia, all details will be reported to the judiciary for the imposition of sentences that reflect the extent of circumstances,” he said.