Island apologises for homophobic attack

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Tourism officials from St Maarten have promised to find and punish the perpetrators of a homophobic attack on two American journalists last month.

Dick Jefferson and his friend Ryan Smith, 25, were beaten unconscious by a homophobic gang outside a bar on the Caribbean Island.

Theo Heyliger and Romeo Fleming of the Caribbean island’s tourism board said in a joint statement, “The entire community of St. Maarten expresses its deepest sympathies for the pain and anguish suffered by Ryan Smith and Richard Jefferson, and their families, from the vicious attack that occurred on our island.

“We are appalled that such a violent act was committed on St. Maarten, a destination that has long been recognised for its safety, friendliness, and absence of crime. This community is committed to being a welcome environment for persons of all ethnic, religious, and social preferences. We consider this to be an isolated incident that is in no way representative of the behaviour of our citizens.”

Mr Jefferson, 51, initially criticised the police’s lazy attitude after Mr Smith was left with brain damage in the attack, he said: “Their attitude was sort of like, ‘It’s a tourist, who cares?'”