LGBTQ charity in Belfast appeals for witnesses following last week’s suspected homophobic drill attack

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Last week, a woman, who has now been named as 38-year-old Brenda McLaughlin was attacked with a drill in a suspected homophobic attack.

Ms. McLaughlin was left in a critical, but stable condition following the attack in Strabane last week. However, according to The Belfast Telegraph, her condition has now been downgraded.

The suspected attacker, a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in Omagh Magistrates’ Court on Monday. He is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of an offensive weapon in public and theft.

A detective for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told the court that there was no evidence that a drill bit was in place when Ms. McLaughlin was attacked. However, he did say: “It is my understanding that the victim has since told medical staff that she heard the noise of the drill and felt her head being twisted.

“There does appear to be some sort of hole in the skull but I cannot say how severe it is.”

The detective also added: “The victim said she believed it was in relation to her homosexuality.”

The accused’s solicitor, Ciaran McGuinness denied homophobia as a motive, saying that the accused had told police that he had gay relatives, and not bear any ill will. District Judge Peter King called the attack a “grossly violent, inexplicably violent incident.” He remanded the accused in custody, and he is due to appear in Omagh Magistrates’ Court again on Friday.

Related: Two teens charged in connection with homophobic attack on London Underground

And now, Belfast’s The Rainbow Project has issued an appeal for witnesses. Aisling Twomey, the charity’s LGB&T Advocacy Officer said: “There is absolutely no excuse for someone being targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Hate crime robs people of their confidence and their independence.

“This attack could have left the victim with a serious life-changing injury to the victim or led to a fatality.

“The PSNI are taking the hate crime aspect of the incident very seriously and young man has been charged according with grievous bodily harm with intention, theft and possession of an offensive weapon.

“We echo the comments of the District Judge Peter King, who described it as an inexplicably violent incident during the initial hearing on Monday 07 May 2018.”

Speaking at the time of the attack, Detective Sergeant Brian Reid told members of the public that “anyone with such footage or any other information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact police in Strabane on 101, quoting reference number 153 05/05/18.

“Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”

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