A woman punched during a scuffle with a group of teenagers said she was subjected to vile homophobic taunts on a night bus before being assaulted.
Christine Hannigan, 29, said she felt ‘scared’ and ‘physically cornered’ as the boys in North West
She was travelling on the N31 bus in Camden on her way home from a date with 28-year-old Melania Ramirez – whose name was Melania Geymonat at the time – at about 2am on May 30.
The American was said to be ‘having a kiss and a cuddle’ with Miss Ramirez when the teenagers said ‘oh lesbians’ and targeted them on the bus.
Melania Ramirez (right), 28, released this image of her with Christine Hannigan covered in blood, after they were attacked by a group of young men on a London bus
Speaking behind a screen at Highbury Youth Court today, she said pretended to be sick to avoid conflict and said: ‘Frankly I deal with a lot of homophobia in London and I was sick of it.’
The three teenagers, aged 15, 16 and 17, pleaded guilty to threatening or abusive behaviour towards both women.
But the 17-year-old, who admitted to throwing coins at Miss Hannigan, denied his actions were motivated by their sexual orientation which was discussed at a Newton hearing today.
A Newton hearing is a trial of the factual issues in a case, which helps the court decide how someone should be sentenced once they have entered a guilty plea.
Speaking in court today, Miss Hannigan said: ‘I remember two of them were in the aisle and the third one sat in the seat directly behind me.
‘They started making remarks about us visibly being together. It was a lot of ‘oh lesbians. They were asking to know how lesbians have sex.’
Melania Ramirez (left, pictured today arriving at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court), 28, was on the way home with her girlfriend in North West London when they were accosted
She added that several comments were made about a sex act. She added: ‘I did not speak to them. I did not feel that they wanted a response from me.
‘Melania and I were together in a romantic sense. We were being affectionate with each other. They wanted us to show them how lesbians have sex.
‘They were saying ‘oh lesbians’ and they wanted to know how lesbians have sex and for us to show them.’
District Judge Susan Williams said the footage clearly showed the couple were ‘having a kiss and a cuddle’ when they first sat down at the front of the night bus.
When asked how she felt about the comments made to her by the teenagers, Miss Hannigan said: ‘It is pretty intimidating, to be physically cornered and have people make homophobic comments to you in your space.
Shocking CCTV shows the moment youths attack two lesbian lovers travelling home on a night bus after they refused to kiss and perform sex acts
The CCTV footage shows the youths attacking the two women, who struggle to remain standing during the horrific attack
‘I was not speaking with them. I had turned my back away from them. Melania was speaking to them and she was trying to de-escalate the situation.
‘I engaged with them only after I realised one started throwing coins at us.’
Ms Hannigan said one of the teenagers threw coins at her at least three times while another three boys ‘were immediately surrounding’ the couple.
She said: ‘They were badgering and harassing us. I had still been ignoring them and turning away from them. As they continued I heard the first coins around us and then one hit me.
‘I was pretending not to feel well so I was bent over myself and my back was turned away from them. I was pretty scared.
Melania Ramirez (left), 28, and her American partner Christine Hannigan
‘It was scary and frankly I deal with a lot of homophobia in London and I was sick of it and not wanting anything to do with it. I felt they did not deserve a response from me.’
District Judge Williams said: ‘When it did happen again it was a step too far and you reacted.’
The court heard Miss Hannigan got up, walked down the aisle and punched one of the teenagers at the back of the bus where a fight broke out.
One of the teenagers is then caught on CCTV walking downstairs with a brown handbag belonging to Miss Ramirez and is followed by Miss Hannigan when the scuffle continued.
David Wood, defending, said: ‘Obviously these boys did make reference to you being lesbians. That did happen.’ He added that there was a reference to a sex act.
Miss Ramirez before the attack, left, and showing her injuries, right
Miss Ramirez told BBC London News: ‘The violence is not only because we are women which are dating each other. It’s also because we are women’
However, Mr Wood added: ‘But the extent to which they were being aggressive or targeting you because of you being on a date with another woman, is that actually true in your mind?
‘Did they say ‘show us’ or is the reason why you say that because you know that in fact this fight had been started by you?’
Miss Hannigan said: ‘I did not say anything that was untrue to what the boys did. I would attribute it more towards being extremely distressed and a lot of adrenaline.’
She said she ‘was still extremely distressed’ at the hospital when she gave a statement to police.
In her statement to police, she said: ‘I began pretending I was going to throw up so they would leave me alone. They were talking to us for around five minutes.
During an interview with BBC London says after the incident, Miss Hannigan could be seen with a black eye
‘They were asking us how lesbians have sex. They then started throwing coins at us. I stood up and said ‘keep throwing money at me and see what happens.’
‘One of the males threw another coin at me so I started walking towards them. I walked towards the male in the blue tracksuit at the back of the group and he immediately punched me in the face.
Miss Ramirez is a Ryanair flight attendant. She has been in the position since February of this year
‘He punched me more than once but I can’t remember how many times.’
Miss Hannigan said the teenagers ‘absolutely’ understood the sex act comment they made to be derogatory and described their behaviour as both ‘aggressive insulting and annoying’
She said she did not immediately tell police about the comments made about her sexuality because she felt ’embarrassed being targeted for your sexuality.’
The teenager yesterday pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive behaviour towards both Miss Ramirez and Miss Hannigan on May 30.
He was also charged with possession of cannabis a week after the incident and pleaded guilty on August 21.
Addressing the 17-year-old at the beginning of the hearing, District Judge Williams said: ‘I have to make a decision first of all about what you did and then I have to consider the reasons why you did it.
‘The prosecution say the reason why you did this is because there was a same sex couple on the top deck of the bus and that you were behaving in the way you did because of who they were and that is what I have to decide.’
She added: ‘He was not acting in isolation. He was not acting entirely alone. They each did different things but they were all acting together making a nuisance of themselves. I have to look at the situation as a whole.’