A man affectionately known as ‘the Little Chef’ was left unable to smile after being attacked by teenagers.
Bob Melia, who works in the kitchen at the Saddle Inn in Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, had to have 13 stitches in his mouth after being punched from behind – and may need plastic surgery.
The 59-year-old, who is just 4ft 11in tall, said the two lads on bikes stalked him and accused him of being a paedophile before knocking him to the ground and leaving him covered in blood.
Mr Melia, of Wall Street in North Shore, said he was left too scared to go outside, while punters at the Saddle Inn spoke of their anger at the “cowards” who attacked him.
Mr Melia said: “I’m not too bad if I take the long way around, but it’s still nerve-wracking going out. If I’m going to town, I get someone to go with me.
“It’s a big kick in the teeth because I hate staying in.”
Pub landlord Alistair Reid, who has been helping Mr Melia with lifts to and from work, is now trying to find him somewhere closer to live.
“They want stringing up,” he said of the young thugs. “I feel sorry for Bob because he has been here a long time. It affects you and we have to look after him.
“We are a family here.”
And punter Jim Smith, 74, said: “I came in for a drink and they told me what happened. Most of the local lads were stunned because of the size of him.
“I think the attackers are cowards. They are just the scum of the earth. To me, Blackpool has gotten worse over the past few years.”
Police are investigating the attack, and have examined CCTV taken from the supermarket Sainsbury’s in Talbot Road – with images circulated amongst officers.
Mr Melia said he was walking home up nearby Grosvenor Street between 10.15-10.30pm on Thursday, October 11 when he noticed the boys – one on a mountain bike with fishing rods and one on a BMX bike – coming down George Street.
“They must have thought I was somebody else because they kept coming out with this other name,” he said.
“I kept saying it wasn’t me. They were determined it was.
“They thought I was a paedophile. Where they got that from, I have no idea.”
He said the pair demanded to see his ID but, for fear they would steal his wallet, he refused.
Instead, he went into Sainsbury’s as it was closing and briefly spoke to a security guard there.
He said the boys waited outside for him to leave, and added: “One of the other security guards was talking to the two lads, and I thought, ‘Well, I need to get home, I’m tired’.
“I set off and they must have waited and few minutes and started following me again.
“I walked down by the side of the train station [Springfield Road], down High Street, and I was hit from behind.”
Mr Melia banged his head on a wall as he fell forward, and said: “I woke up and my hands were covered in blood.
“I don’t know if they hit me with something. I didn’t see it coming because I had my back to them. The next minute it was, ‘Whack’, and I was on the ground.”
The lads – the one on the mountain bike was described as tall and thin with a speech impediment and a hood pulled up, the one on the BMX was shorter and stockier – are believed to have cycled off.
A young couple found Mr Melia lying injured and took him to his next neighbour’s home. From there, paramedics and police were called.
Mr Melia, who moved to the resort from his hometown of Rochdale almost 20 years ago, was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital before being transferred to Preston amid fears he would need plastic surgery.
He said medics will decide in a year’s time whether the scarring will need a skin graft to fix, and was still in pain and suffering dizzy spells as he recovers from his ordeal – including mentally.
“For the first couple of days, I was scared to go out,” he said. “I was being brought to work by my bosses and taken home by my bosses.
“I just want to know why they have done it. I didn’t know them and I didn’t do anything to them. And now I’m in a right mess.”
A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said: “We were called by the ambulance service at 10.21pm on Thursday, October 11 to reports of an assault in Blackpool.
“It was reported that two males on bikes approached a man and were verbally abusive towards him. He was then hit to the face, causing him to fall to the ground.”
The apparently unprovoked attack is the latest in a string of similar crimes in Blackpool. The most high-profile of which recently was on homeless man Igor Gieci.
He was left with multiple serious injuries, including a broken eye socket and ankle, after being beaten by three youths as he slept in a tent on the Promenade, near to the Metropole Hotel, in the early hours of the morning on Monday, October 1.
In May, a 48-year-old man was stabbed in the arm in an unprovoked attack in Bond Street, South Shore, with the attacker described as being in his early 20s.
And in March, a man was punched and kicked in the face in an unprovoked attack at the News and Booze shop in Dickson Road, North Shore.
The attacker in that incident was described as a man in his mid-20s.
Earlier this year, The Gazette revealed how crime in Blackpool had risen by more than 16 per cent over the previous 12 months.
It was one of the steepest increases in lawlessness seen across Lancashire, with the figures prompting the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw to warn about the increased demands being placed on a shrinking police force – with hundreds of officers taken off the streets in recent years in the wake of huge government cuts.
Mr Grunshaw said: “Our officers continue to do more with less.”