A couple has been left battered, bloodied and bruised after being set upon by their neighbours in a vicious homophobic attack.
Italian Mauro Padovani, 46, and his Italian-American husband Tom Freeman, 59, were assaulted outside their home in Ghent, Belgium.
Padovani told Corriere.it that he is still shocked by the severity of the assault, which left him with a concussion and his husband with injuries to his back.
“They spat in our face. They insulted us, and then they started beating us with a steering lock on the head, on the back and on the legs. Everywhere,” he said.
“I love Belgium. I got married here. But now, I do not feel safe here any more.”
Padovani said it is not the first time they have been subjected to homophobic violence and harassment from the neighbours – a Bulgarian man and his Croatian girlfriend.
When they first moved into the building and introduced themselves, the couple told them that they hated gay people.
“They once threw bricks at us. When they saw us, they screamed at us. We went to the police several times, but they never listened to us,” Padovani said.
Padovani and Freeman met online 12 years ago and “fell in love right away”. They got married five years ago, but sadly, Freeman developed Alzheimer’s disease just a year later.
“He has Alzheimer’s, and that hurts me the most, to see him on the ground in tears. To beat a person like him is like beating a child,” Padovani said.
The Bulgarian neighbour is facing up to four years in prison for the assault and the added element of homophobia, if proven, can worsen his sentence.