Sue Perkins left in tears after vile homophobic attack on London’s Hampstead Heath

A photo of TV presenter Sue Perkins wearing a white shirt and silver grey suit jacket as she smiles to the camera during the British Academy Television Awards

Sue Perkins has revealed that she was recently left in tears by a man who hurled homophobic abuse at her on London’s Hampstead Heath.

The former Great British Bake Off host and all-round national treasure recalled the frightening moment during an appearance on the Homo Sapiens podcast.

“I did have my first homophobic insult in 20 years recently,” she told host Alan Cumming. “And I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder if that’s coming back?'”

Perkins, 51, said she was walking her dog on the public heath when she passed a man wearing “reactor-like glasses” who was loitering near the men’s toilets.

Presumably recognising the celebrity, the man spat out the homophobic slur: “You f**king dyke.'”

“You know when something bad happens and on the bus on the way home you think of all the brilliant things you should have said in that moment? I had that very profoundly,” Perkins said.

“At the time, I sort of went right up to him and went, ‘What did you say?’ And he sort of postured a bit almost as if he was going to hit me, almost like an intimation of something physical.”

Although she was afraid for her safety, Perkins maintained her composure and again asked the man to repeat what he’d said to her.

“I just thought I’m going to stand here. And, very calmly, I went, ‘What did you say?’ I remember my hand was out – I wanted to keep that distance, like if you come within the length of my arm I know that something really bad is going to happen.

“He just sort of buckled a bit and he went, ‘I just mean you’ve got a nice face, why would you…’ I just thought, ‘What’s my face got to do with you?'”

Perkins made sure the man knew the impact of his words.

“I just said, ‘I’m just walking my dog and I’m quiet and I’m in a good mood and I’ve got love for everyone here and you’ve destroyed that and you can’t take that back today.’ And I went off and I burst into tears. It was so shocking and so unusual.”

She revealed it had been “decades” since her last homophobic encounter, but as shaken as she was, she was determined not to stoop to the man’s level.

“The worst part of me wanted to say, ‘If anyone’s going to judge anybody on what they’re doing and where they are…'” she laughed, alluding to Hampstead Heath’s reputation as a popular gay cruising spot.

“But I didn’t want to replace knee-jerk unkindness with knee-jerk unkindness.”