Young NI fan says he was beaten by 'sectarian' mob after leaving Fanzone
A young Northern Ireland football fan says he was beaten and left for dead in a vicious sectarian gang attack last week.
Lee Rice lay unconscious for nearly an hour in Belfast city centre with blood pouring from his face after he was jumped by up to eight men.
In the cowardly attack Lee, who was making his way home from the fanzone in the Titanic Quarter after the game against Germany, was attacked from behind in Bedford Street because he was wearing a Northern Ireland shirt.
The 22-year-old suffered a broken eye socket and bruising when he was kicked in the head as he lay on the ground, claiming his attackers chanted “Orange b*****d” at him.
Lee shortly after the attack
In a tournament celebrated for the behaviour of its fans, Lee says it’s a disgrace that he couldn’t walk home safely.
The Sandy Row man staggered from Bedford Street around the corner to Hope Street after the attack where he was eventually spotted by locals.
CCTV footage of the assault shows it was over 45 minutes before he was found.
“I was going home from the fanzone after the game on Tuesday night when I got separated from my mates,” says Lee.
“I thought I was safe, but as I was walking past the front of Weatherspoons seven or eight guys jumped me.
“They started hitting me and got me on the ground. I remember a boot coming in to my face and moving my hands and then a boot coming in again.”
Lee has no memory of getting to Hope Street, but says he’s lucky to be alive. Locals found him on the ground bloodied and unconscious.
He has to return to hospital tomorrow where doctors will assess if he needs a plate in his face. “It took three days before I could open my eye,” he says.
Mum Kimberly says her heart froze when she got the call that Lee had been found seriously injured.
“It’s terrible to think someone left him there. It’s taken the whole buzz about the Euros out of him.”
He couldn’t face watching the Northern Ireland v Wales game at the fanzone yesterday and says the assault has left him with psychological as well as physical scars.
“The last couple of days I’ve been seeing people behind me, who aren’t there.
“I didn’t deserve this. All I was doing was supporting my country’s football team when I get attacked for wearing a Northern Ireland top.”
Police have seized CCTV footage of the assault from a nearby building and have appealed for information.
“A 19-year-old man was arrested and questioned in connection with the assault,” said a PSNI spokeswoman. “He has since been released on bail pending further inquiries. We are appealing for witnesses to get in touch with police.”