A solicitor has described the moment he was punched several times on his doorstep after being racially abused.
Luq Ali, 39, said the attack, which happened after returning from a wedding, has left him “conscious of being a different colour”.
His partner Del Thomas watched the racially-aggravated assault in horror and tried to pull the attacker away.
The attack happened outside the couple’s home in Hay-on-Wye, Powys in the early hours of May 27 last year, Wales Online reports.
Engineering company boss Gary Bowen, 51, from Brecon, was sentenced for racially-aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm at Cardiff Crown Court earlier this month.
Recalling the attack, Luq said: “I had never felt the colour of my skin affected anything.
“Why should it? Now I am conscious of being a different colour.”
Luq and Del had been to a friend’s wedding in Glasbury. Del used to be friends with Bowen’s former partner but Luq had never spoken to her.
As the guests were enjoying themselves there was an incident on the dancefloor.
Luq, who is a partner at a law firm, said: “I told Del what happened and we were both upset. I never normally cry but I was in tears.”
The couple tried to forget about it and decided to get a lift home. As they got out of the car they were shocked to see Bowen waiting on their doorstep.
He launched “a tirade” of racial abuse then grabbed Luq and started punching him. One neighbour described it as a “frenzied” attack.
“He lost it,” said Luq. “The aggression was unbelievable. I was asking: ‘What have I done to you?’ I didn’t even know him.”
The dad-of-one can’t remember most of the incident.
“I don’t recall some of it,” he said. “When you are hit in the face with such force you black out. Some of it may be repressed memory. I see flashes of his face.”
A witness described five or six punches to the face. The victim tried to get away but Bowen kept punching out and knocked him over.
Del, 38, who works as a commercial project manager for a pharmaceutical company, said: “It was horrible to see. I tried to get him off Luq. It was such a horrible experience.”
Bowen and his partner started to walk off but then he returned and grabbed Luq and punched him again, knocking him into some shrubs.
Asked if he had ever been racially abused before, Luq said: “Not on that level. You are subjected to stuff – I certainly was when I was growing up. But I had never been directly assaulted.
“I just don’t understand. I am not confrontational. I am not aggressive in any way. I argue with words – that’s my profession. I am not one to resort to physical violence.”
Luq asked Bowen why he was behaving like that and said the only reason he could think of was due to the colour of his skin, adding: “There was no other reason for him to attack me.
“It is embarrassing for me I could not protect myself or Del. I’m not a fighter. The road was covered in blood. We had to scrub it off the drive.”
He said he did not want his 11-year-old daughter to see the aftermath of the attack and could not find the words to explain to her what happened.
“I don’t want to have to tell her there are people out there who will look at you differently because of the colour of your skin,” he said.
“I don’t want her to feel that way. She’s innocent in that way. She doesn’t understand what race is. I don’t want to expose her to racism. I don’t want to bring her up here any more.”
Luq made the brave decision to stand up in court and read out his own victim impact statement. He said he wrote that document six weeks after the assault and would have liked the chance to update it before the sentence hearing, which took place 15 months after the incident.
“I can’t begin to explain the impact on me – it has been huge,” he said, reflecting on the difficulties he has suffered at work and with his personal relationships.
Luq was taken to hospital in Brecon where he was treated for a wound to his nose, which has left a permanent scar. His jaw was also injured.
“I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and I see my scar in the mirror,” he said. “I used to wear contact lenses as I don’t like wearing glasses but now I wear [glasses] to try and cover the scar.”
He is still struggling to sleep and found it particularly difficult in the run-up to the court hearing.
“I don’t want to be dependent on sleeping pills,” he said. “But I can’t sleep at night. I feel exhausted and sometimes I fall asleep in the day because I’m so tired.
“Sometimes I just feel like sleeping and I don’t want to wake up. I feel lethargic. It feels like every single thing is difficult. Every little thing builds up and I am having difficulty processing.
“Everything has fallen apart and unravelled. I feel like a different person.”
Before the incident Luq was living in Bristol for part of the week and in Hay-on-Wye with Del for the other part.
The couple have been together for two and a half years and Luq was planning to move to Hay-on-Wye with his partner full-time but had to re-consider.
Luq said he was attracted by the picturesque landscape, book shops, literature festival, and outdoor activities like walking, cycling, and canoeing.
Mum-of-two Del said she never noticed any prejudice towards their relationship, adding: “But I am white living in a predominantly white community.
“Luq said racism still exists and I told him: ‘Don’t be silly. It’s the 21st century. It’s not like that around here.’ I feel embarrassed having told him that just because I had never experienced it.”
She said she could remember one family of colour living in the area when she was growing up and believed they never experienced any racism but now wonders if they did.
“I love this area,” said Luq. “We used to go for walks all the time – in the mountains, by the river. I just don’t feel like doing that any more. I no longer want to be here. I just don’t feel comfortable.”
The couple were in the process of moving before lockdown hit. Luq’s parents were from Bangladesh and he was born and brought up in Bristol. He estimates his local community is 98% white.
“I feel like everywhere I go I’m the only person from an ethnic minority,” he said. “It has made me conscious about what people think of me.
“I had never felt the colour of my skin affected anything. Why should it? Now I am conscious of being a different colour. I’ve been made to feel different. I am not different.”
Luq worries his neighbours will think the only person of colour in the neighbourhood brought the police to the area.
He added: “Maybe I’m being paranoid but I feel like I’m not welcome here.”
Bowen, from Coed Farm in Llanwern, Brecon, admitted racially-aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Christopher Quinlan QC, defending, said his mitigation was not intended to defend racism, “which has no place in our society”.
He argued the incident at the wedding was the basis for the assault, adding: “[Mr Ali] was not attacked because of the colour of his skin. This was not an attack motivated by race.”
Bowen was given a 13-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work plus 15 days of rehabilitation.
He was ordered to pay £1,750 in compensation as well as £1,200 in costs and a £149 victim surcharge and Judge Catherine Richards imposed a restraining order.
Luq said he would have expected Bowen to receive an immediate prison sentence and believes the suspended sentence sends out the wrong message.
“I was disappointed with the sentence,” he said. “He effectively walks free when he has taken so much away from me. He must feel like he can do anything he wants and get away with it.”
Luq believes if it had been him in the dock he would have been treated differently. He observed Bowen was able to afford a Queen’s Counsel (QC) barrister to defend him.
During the hearing Judge Richards said she would take into account the fact Bowen’s civil engineering company WW Bowen employs 35 people, whose livelihoods depend on him.
Del said: “He did not think about that when he racially assaulted Luq. What message is that sending out? Become a businessman and you will not have to go to prison.
“I am very disappointed he has been kept out of prison. It is supposed to be a deterrent.”