A homeless man was jumped on “like a trampoline” by three young thugs as he slept in his tent on the Promenade.
THE LATEST:: Campaigner's pride in Blackpool as well-wishers raise cash to pay for flat for brutally attacked homeless man
Igor Gieci was left battered and bruised in the early hours attack, which police today said was being treated as “unprovoked and prolonged”.
After being discharged from Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he was treated for significant facial injuries, the 55-year-old relived the “scary” robbery – with the “17 to 18-year-olds” ordering him to hand over his money before raining punches and kicks down on him at around 2am yesterday.
In broken English, the Slovakian told The Gazette: “Me speak ‘Please, stop it, stop it, what is me problem, me no problem.”
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. Nobody at Street Angels could be immediately reached for a comment.
Struggling to walk – or eat anything substantial because of injuries to his stomach – Mr Gieci was today being looked after by homeless campaigner Mark 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.”
A campaign to raise £3,000 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.
The money would be used to pay for a deposit on a flat, a month’s rent, and enough to buy him the basics. “Thank you, my friend,” Mr Gieci told Mr Butcher when the campaign went live earlier. “Good man. Thank you,” he said, as the pair hugged.
Mr Butcher, who founded the Amazing Graze soup kitchen, 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 around six to eight months ago. He does not qualify for housing benefit.
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.