Exclusive: Gay man who had his spine broken after Pride ‘thought he was going to die’

A Pride in London attendee who suffered a broken spine during an anti-gay attack after the parade has told PinkNews: “I thought I was going to die.”

Tom Barwick, a 50-year-old pet shop owner, was walking along Greek Street in Soho after leaving the festivities in July when he was hit from behind.

“I was walking along on my phone, trying to find a way home, and someone shouted out: ‘Oi, you f**king poof!’

Barwick after the accident (Tom Barwick)

“I didn’t take any notice, but it was just seconds before I felt a crack in my back and I went down. Completely down. They nicked my phone and ran – and then, I don’t have a lot of memories.”

Barwick, a father-of-one from Essex, said the next thing he remembers is coming to on a Central line train.

“I think it was the adrenalin – I had an instinct to get home,” he explained. “But then it was like I had woken up, and I started screaming in pain.

“The passengers made me get off at Stratford, where the staff helped me into the control room.”

With England playing in a World Cup quarter-final, help didn’t arrive for a while.

The crowd at Pride in London (Mark Milan/Getty)

“They called the police, but I had to wait three hours for an ambulance, passing in and out of consciousness,” he remembered.

“I actually thought I was going to die. I’ve never experienced pain like it. I was really scared.

“And I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, through a surrogate – I was scared that I was never going to see her again.

“I finally got to hospital and they did the scans, and it turned out I had a burst fracture of the spine.”

The journey back to health has been slow and painful for Barwick, who said he was in hospital for 10 days, eight of which were spent bed-bound.

Barwick with some parrots in his pet shop (Tom Barwick)

He’s now in a brace, which he has to wear for up to six months, and is unable to run his business.

“I’ve had to employ extra staff, so I can’t pay myself,” he said. “It’s a nightmare at the moment.

“It’s completely ruined my life. Life’s not good. It’s been awful.”

Police have said that the incident is being treated as a hate crime “due to offensive language heard by the victim” shortly before the attack and have appealed for help, after making no arrests since the incident last month.

As far as Barwick was concerned, his attackers deserve to be caught and punished for what they did.

“I’m massively angry at them,” he said. “I’m 50, I’ve been out since I was 18, and I’ve never had any homophobic comments that I’ve heard. I didn’t think there were people like that out there.”

Barwick, who has a friend staying with him to help out, added: “I’m very very angry with them. They need to be caught.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Parade goers during Pride In London on July 7, 2018 in London, England. It is estimated over 1 million people will take to the streets and approximately 30,000 people and 472 organisations will join the annual parade, which is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations.

The England match happened at the same time as the parade (Tristan Fewings/Getty)

“It’s not fair. They’ve ruined my life, so I’d like to ruin theirs, to be frank. That’s why I’ve gone public with this – because I hope someone will remember what happened.”

Barwick has now set up a fundraising page to help with living costs.

“It’s something I never thought I’d have to do, because I’m quite a proud man and I’ve worked all my life, but I’ve got no money coming in. I’ve got no savings,” he said.

“I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter who’s basically with me during term time at the moment, and I’ve got to pay staff.”

And he welcomed the response, which has seen well-wishers donate more than £200 so far.

“People have been really nice,” said Barwick. “People are offering to help in the shop as well.

“It sort of puts your faith back in humanity, knowing that not everyone’s horrible and nasty.”