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Campaigner's pride in Blackpool as well-wishers raise cash to pay for flat for brutally attacked homeless man

Igor smiles as he poses in the flat he will move into on Friday, paid for by well-wishes, after more than six months on the streets of Blackpool (Picture: Abbie Butcher/GoFundMe)
Igor smiles as he poses in the flat he will move into on Friday, paid for by well-wishes, after more than six months on the streets of Blackpool (Picture: Abbie Butcher/GoFundMe)

A homeless campaigner has spoken of his pride in the Blackpool well-wishers who have raised the cash to get a flat for attacked homeless man Igor Gieci.

The 55-year-old was badly beaten by three young yobs as he slept in a tent on the Promenade in the early hours of Monday, with the crime sickening residents.

Igor Gieci had his hair cut yesterday, was bought reading glasses and medicine, and given a place to stay for three nights for free (Pictures: Mark Butcher/Facebook)

Igor Gieci had his hair cut yesterday, was bought reading glasses and medicine, and given a place to stay for three nights for free (Pictures: Mark Butcher/Facebook)

A campaign to raise £3,000 for the Slovakian was launched yesterday and has already raised almost half that amount - with a number of donations still coming in every hour.

READ MORE:: Homeless man 'pleaded with thugs to stop' as they battered him in early hours attack in Blackpool

The cash will be used to pay for Mr Gieci's rent and bond and buy him necessities - with him set to move into a central Blackpool flat on Friday after resort-based letting agent Move Holmes came forward this morning.

Well-wishers have also offered donations of furniture and other items, while the Tesco branch in Central Drive gave a food parcel.

Igor Gieci, who was attacked by three teenagers as he slept in his tent in Blackpool (Picture: Mark Butcher/Facebook)

Igor Gieci, who was attacked by three teenagers as he slept in his tent in Blackpool (Picture: Mark Butcher/Facebook)

READ MORE:: The fund-raising campaign – ‘Help Igor get a home to be safe’

Mark Butcher, the founder of the Amazing Graze soup kitchen, said: "I'm really proud of the people of Blackpool. It's been really quite incredible to see such an amazing response from locals - from working and genuine people.

"It's been a joint effort between every single person, from the Street Angels [who helped Mr Gieci after his release from hospital], to the businesses and business owners, the general public, the media, and police.

"The kindness people have shown him is incredible and we need to be inspired by this."

Nobody has been arrested for the attack on Mr Gieci, which police said was being treated as "unprovoked and prolonged".

READ MORE:: Readers react with anger as police appeal for witnesses

Since he spoke of his "scary ordeal", which happened at around 2am, well-wishers flooded him with offers of help.

Mr Butcher bought him reading glasses, food, a haircut, and medicine, and a local property developer has given him the use of a central Blackpool holiday flat, for free, until Friday, when he is now due to move.

He is also set to meet with police officers and an interpreter that day, Mr Butcher said.

He added: "We just plan to let him rest, feed him, and try to get him healthy."

It is hoped the money raised through donations, which can be made here, will pay for six months' rent and furnishings.

READ MORE:: Attack came after man’s sleeping bag was set on fire

Mr Gieci, who has been homeless for six to eight months, does not qualify for housing benefit, and Mr Butcher said: "In the short term we want to get his health back, but the mid-term plan is to get him back to work because that's the only way he can sustain himself.

Mr Butcher asked anybody who can help to email him at markbutcher54@icloud.com

He added: "Everybody has given Igor his dignity back. They apologised and said, 'Blackpool is not like this, please don't think everybody is like this because we are not.'"

In broken English, Mr Gieci yesterday relived the moment "17 to 18-year-olds" ordered him to hand over his money - he did not have any - before raining punches and kicks down on him.

"Me speak 'Please, stop it, stop it, what is me problem, me no problem," he said.

READ MORE:: Homeless Igor gets haircut, medicine and a place to stay as Blackpool pulls together to help him after brutal and prolonged attack

The boys, who had hoods up, smacked Mr Gieci with his own crutches and took his basic Alcatel mobile phone, which he fears they threw in the Irish Sea to stop him calling police, before they strolled off like “normal.” His tent was also ripped and thrown away.

Mr Gieci said he went to the tourist information centre after the attack, and was taken to the council’s housing office in Albert Road before being driven to hospital by a council worker.

He was treated and discharged, and later helped by the Street Angels – Christian volunteers who work across the resort to help the needy and the vulnerable – who took him to a safer place.

Struggling to walk – or eat anything substantial because of injuries to his stomach – Mr Gieci was yesterday being looked after by Mr Butcher, who said: “When I saw him he cried because he trusts me and I’m his friend. He asked me, ‘Why?’

“I can’t answer him. I think it’s barbaric. I’m perplexed. I just don’t understand because he’s such a gentleman. He’s so nice.”

The campaign to help Mr Gieci, who has travelled the UK looking for work since moving here 16 years ago, was launched as people reacted with anger at the attack – as well as offering items like sleeping bags and coats.

“Thank you, my friend,” Mr Gieci told Mr Butcher when the campaign went live. “Good man. Thank you,” he said, as the pair hugged.

Mr Butcher said Mr Gieci has had to cope with regularly being spat on, and said: “I have replaced three tents now because his other tent was slashed with a knife and they urinated on it.”

Mr Gieci said he has been living in Blackpool for two years, after previous stays in Bradford, Northampton, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton. He said: “Last year, me call my friend. ‘Igor, come to Blackpool, starting season, no problem, work.’”

But he said he found himself out of work, and with no place to stay.

And while he admitted to drinking alcohol to help cope with life on the streets, he said he does not take drugs, including former legal high Spice and cannabis. “Okay, me alcoholic,” he said. “Because now sleep on the floor, me start cider. Me cold.”

He said he has been sleeping in a shelter near to the Metropole hotel on the Promenade in the town centre, a regular hang out for the homeless, and, at 12.45pm on Tuesday, September 18, was served with a community protection warning.

The council and police document, seen by The Gazette, bans him from sleeping – or trying to sleep – in a public area, including toilets and bus shelters, from having or drinking alcohol, or failing to “engage with support services that are offered to you”.

Coun Gillian Campbell, the deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “I am horrified to hear that this attack has taken place and I urge anyone with information to speak to the police.

“Our housing officers have been working with Mr Gieci for a number of months and he receives visits on a daily basis to check on his well-being. One of the officers took him to hospital following this terrible attack.

“Unfortunately Mr Gieci has not accepted any of the help or assistance that we have offered. It is a very sad situation but we are committed to helping him into accommodation as his current living situation cannot continue.”

Det Con Adam Weaver, from Blackpool CID, said: “This was a brutal and sustained assault on a vulnerable man and I would appeal to any witnesses or anyone with information to come forward and speak to us.”

Anyone with information can call police on 101, quoting log number 0635 of October 1, 2018. It can also be reported anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.