Aodhán Benson was left bloodied and bruised after the attack (Image: liverpoolecho.co.uk)
Get email updates with the day’s biggest stories
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
Two men have been arrested after a suspected homophobic attack left the victim fearing he would die.
Aodhán Benson was bruised and bloodied following the vicious assault in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The 24-year-old, from Belfast, was targeted by a group of strangers – who he claims called him homophobic slurs before the savage beating – outside Tesco in the Merseyside city's Bold Street.
Police were called around 12.25am and took Aodhán to hospital – with the force now confirming two suspects are being quizzed by detectives, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Following witness and CCTV enquiries, a 43-year-old man from Liverpool was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Aodhán said he feared he would die during the shocking incident
And a 33-year-old man from Sefton has also been arrested on suspicion of assault and on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug.
Merseyside Police's Chief Inspector Col Rooney branded the attack an "appalling incident", adding despite the arrests made investigations are still ongoing.
"As well as physical violence, we believe that homophobic slurs were directed at the victim and we are treating the attack as a hate crime," he continued.
Aodhán said he was rescued by his friends before police took him to hospital
"This type of behaviour brings shame on our city, and it has rightly outraged many people.
"We share this anger – targeting anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has no place whatsoever on Merseyside."
Ch Insp Rooney went on to say high visibility officers were out in and around Liverpool's Pride Quarter last night and will continue to patrol over the coming days and weeks.
The incident took place in Liverpool's Bold Street
"After a number of worrying incidents over the last month, we want our LGBT+ community to be reassured that we stand with them: we are committed to protecting them, and we will do whatever we can to bring offenders to justice," he added.
Any victims of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate crime are being urged to contact police.
In an emotionally charged interview yesterday, Aodhán said: "If this is what being gay means, then I don't want to be gay. Literally, if this is what my sexuality results in, then I'll not be gay then, if you just leave me alone.
"How many more times will it happen to me? Like, why are people so horrible? It's just sick."
The Liverpool Hope University graduate – who studied for a teaching qualification with Spanish and French – said he was sat with friends when a stranger approached them and took offence to Aodhán calling him "love".
"He went, 'Love, why would you say 'love'? Only f*****s would say love,'" he explained. "And I was like, 'Well I am a f*****'. And he went, 'You're a what?' I was like, 'I'm a f*****', because I'm not ashamed to say it."
The altercation quickly became violent, claims Aodhán, when he told the man to "f*** off" and in return he called him a "gay f***** c***" before punching him.
"Now, I have to fully put my hands up, I hit him back," said Aodhán.
"Two of his friends then came and I was like, 'Well I can't hit all three of them'."
Struggling to hold back tears, Aodhán said: "It was just really scary, just because like, when all three of them were hitting me, I was like 'Oh my god what if I die?'"
Aodhán said his friends intervened, giving him enough space to run across the street while they took photos of the men. One of his friends called the police, who attended the scene and took him to hospital.
He said he left hospital around 11am on Saturday with a busted lip, black eye, swollen nose and a cut above his eye.