A Polish pensioner is recovering from serious head injuries after she was battered by a bat-wielding thug in what is being treated as a hate crime.
Detectives are investigating after the victim, who is in her 60s, was attacked in Ballymena as she walked along with another Polish woman in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The incident happened at around 2am when the women were walking in the Larne Road Link area of the Co Antrim town.
Police said the pair were approached from behind by a masked man who was armed with a knife and baseball bat.
The victim was hit over the head several times with the baseball bat. She required hospital treatment for her injuries.
Her companion, who is in her 40s, was not injured during the brutal beating, but was left badly shaken by what she witnessed.
The man police are seeking in connection with the assault is described as being approximately 5ft 8ins and was wearing black clothing.
The PSNI is treating the incident as a hate crime.
Patrick Yu (below), executive director of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), condemned the attack and told the Belfast Telegraph it will provide assistance to both women if they require it.
“This sort of violent behaviour is not acceptable in our society,” Mr Yu said.
“People living in Northern Ireland, from all over the world, contribute to the economy and have a right to be free from intimidation and discrimination.
“I would appeal to anyone who saw what happened to contact the police so the perpetrator can be brought to justice.”
Ulster Unionist North Antrim MLA Robin Swann also condemned the attack.
“I was shocked to learn that two women were subjected to a violent attack by a man with a baseball bat in the Larne Link Road area of Ballymena at around 2am on Tuesday,” he said.
“I understand that the two women attacked were foreign nationals and that the police are treating this as a hate crime.
“Clearly the individual responsible is a danger to the public and must be stopped.
“I appeal to anyone with any information to come forward immediately and assist the police.”
Ballymena police station can be contacted on 0845 600 8000. Alternatively, the charity Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The PSNI has adopted the definition for racially motivated incidents recommended by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. It is: “Any incident, which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” A racial group can be defined as a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins. In the year to September 2012 the PSNI investigated 690 racist incidents, down from 788 the previous 12 months.