Belfast man swamped with online abuse after assault in centre of Liverpool
A Belfast man injured in a homophobic attack has received an apology from a troll who told him to “burn in hell” after details of the assault were made public.
Aodhan Benson, who has just completed a PGCE at Liverpool Hope University, said he made the decision not to report a series of vile messages to police after finding out the sender was a teenager.
"I work with kids and I know this could seriously damage his future,” said the 24-year-old.
"He has apologised and said it was a joke that had gone too far. I have accepted the apology and asked him that in future, he thinks about his words more carefully.
"He is young enough that hopefully he can do some growing up.”
It came after the teen sent a string of messages littered with abuse, expletives and derogatory terms for gay people.
When tracked down and threatened with police action, the boy messaged: “I’m sorry for being homophobic. I’d really appreciate it if the police weren’t involved in this it was just a joke that I taken to far [sic].”
In a hugely understanding gesture, Aodhan responded: “I won’t involve the police don’t worry. I’d just appreciate if you have something to say, think twice as to how it can affect someone.”
Aodhan, who is from the New Lodge in north Belfast, also revealed his mum was unable to speak to him for a number of days after the attack, which took place in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of July 10.
"She was so upset every time I rang her that all she could do was cry, so we had to text instead,” he continued.
He said he had been so shaken up by the unprovoked assault that he had been unable to sleep at home until Tuesday night: "I’ve been staying at friends, the whole thing got to me and it’s been a difficult couple of days.”
He is due to return to Northern Ireland today to spend some time with family before be begins a job teaching Spanish and French at an international school.
"It was always the plan to come home because my sister had a baby and I wanted to see them before I head off again,” he said.
"I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t think an attack like that would ever have happened to me in Belfast, but it hasn’t put me off Liverpool, I definitely want to go back there again.”
Aodhan was enjoying a night out with friends in Liverpool city centre when he was set upon by two men in the early hours of Saturday morning. He required hospital treatment for a head injury sustained in the assault.
Merseyside Police arrested two men, aged 43 and 33, who have been conditionally bailed until next month.
Aodhan continued: “I fought back when I was attacked in the street… I’m not going to let myself be a victim, although it was scary when I was being punched.
“It only took about five seconds but it seemed to go on forever.
“At the time, all I could think is, 'What if I die and don't get the chance to tell my mum and dad that I love them'?
"No one goes on a night out and thinks they might not come home."