Victims of Leicester Square anti-Semitic attack demand police apology after 'being told to calm down on the phone'

23 January 2024, 13:06

Leicester Square
Leicester Square. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A man and a woman who were attacked by an anti-Semitic mob in Leicester Square said they were told to calm down while trying to call police, as they demanded an apology from the force.

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The three victims of the central London attack, which took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, said they called police at least ten times.

They said they were punched by a mob of around ten people after being overheard speaking in Hebrew, although they thought there could have been more. Tehilla, the woman, was punched in the neck, and one of the men had been punched in the side of the face and suffered swelling and bruising. The thugs also threw glass bottles at them.

Police arrived about half an hour minutes after the calls came in, by which time the attacks had ended and the victims had left.

Tehilla said that when she called police during the attacks she was told: "'You should calm down, you need to understand it's like this every visit Saturday. You're not the only one that calls tonight.'

Read more: Three friends 'attacked by 20 men' in Leicester Square 'for being Jewish' and 'called police 10 times'

Read more: Hate crimes spike in major British cities after October 7 Hamas attacks, police figures show

"And I said 'Yeah, but I'm here by myself and this guy's attacking me only because I'm Jewish, please.' And I was crying. I was crying my eyes out. I was shouting," she said in a video released by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

Tehilla, 28, has lived in the UK for 15 years. Her male friend visits every year and has family in the country.

They both said that they would never have imagined such a violent anti-Semitic attack to take place in the UK, although the woman had previously suffered verbal abuse.

"It wasn't even about like Israel-Palestine," she said. "It was about us being Jewish... which is really scary."

Her male friend described the attack in greater detail in the video.

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He said: "We were... talking to each other in Hebrew and suddenly behind our back we hear like 'Jewish, Jewish' so we turned around.

The attackers were asking them if they were Jewish, so they said: "Yes, we're Jews - why?"

He added: "And they started to shout and curse... really cursing coming forward to us... and shouting."

The man said that they tried to tell the thugs they didn't know them, and ask them what they wanted, but the attackers kept on coming.

More people started to gather, until there was a crowd of about 30, seven or ten of whom were actively assaulting them, although it was hard to tell exact numbers, he said. Others were watching or filming as the attacks took place.

"It was a whole mess," he said. "And everyone was shouting, everyone was cursing."

He added: "I think first also the police need to really apologise. If they apologise that they need to take this thing seriously."

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Anti-Semitic attacks have risen sharply since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Police have made dozens of arrests at the pro-Palestine marches in London, which have been running most weekends since October.

The Met's detective superintendent Lucy O’Connor said earlier: "We are investigating this incident as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

"I know how upsetting such inexcusable violence is for anyone who was injured or who witnessed the incident, and also for the wider community. I share their concerns.

"Officers arrived at the scene some 28 minutes after they were called. Of course, I wish we could have come to their aid sooner.

"The police investigation will now focus on speaking with the woman and any other victims or witnesses, as well as following up all lines of enquiry including analysis of CCTV. I urge any witnesses to get in touch.

"I can assure Londoners, tackling anti-Semitic crime is a priority for the Met. There is no place for hate in our city."

A spokesperson for the Met added that officers were called at around 1.37am on Sunday in Leicester Square, and the person who reported the incident said that they didn't need an ambulance.

"Officers attended the location, arriving shortly after 2am, at which point all parties had left the scene. We understand that a woman subsequently attended hospital for treatment," they added.

"The incident is being treated as a hate crime. Officers will speak with the victim to take a statement and identify any other victims and witnesses."