Racist thugs growing more extreme, minister warns

Bob Roberts,Deputy Political Editor,Pa News
Saturday 25 March 2000 01:00 GMT

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A Government minister today issued a warning about the growing extremism of racists in Britain as he condemned the vicious knife attack on the white boyfriend of Olympic athlete Ashia Hansen.

Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said the Government was seriously concerned about this and a number of other racist incidents across the country.

Mr O'Brien condemned the attack as "appalling" and said the Government had already brought in tougher sentences for people found guilty of racially-aggravated offences.

He made clear on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that those offences now included cases "where a white perpetrator attacks a white victim on the basis of perhaps hostility towards the victim's black girlfriend".

He warned that after the death of Stephen Lawrence and this attack there was "no room for complacency" about racist violence.

"Britain is becoming more tolerant and integrated," said Mr O'Brien. "The more we do, the more marginalised and extremist these racist thugs will become."

He added: "I very much hope the police will be able to catch these particular individuals and also individuals associated with a number of racist incidents about which we are seriously concerned."

As police continued to hunt down the vicious group who left Chris Cotter, 28, with facial injuries and stab wounds, the couple were recovering from their ordeal at a secret address.

Ms Hansen, 28, who is widely seen as Britain's best hope of a gold medal at the Sydney Games this summer, also received a hate mail letter related to the attack, West Midlands Police said.

Mr Cotter, was set upon by a gang of up to five men as he pulled up outside the international triple jumper's home in Erdington, Birmingham, on Tuesday night in what police described as a racially motivated attack.

The financial adviser, who was stabbed three times from behind and slashed across the face, told The Express: "When the doctors saw my forehead they said it was pretty clear that the intention had been to scalp me."

He described how he was approached by one attacker, a 6ft 5in man with a London accent, who put him in an arm lock while whispering racist abuse to him as he was walked towards Ms Hansen's home.

Mr Cotter added: "I then became aware of people behind me. I felt punches in the back although I didn't know I was being stabbed in the back.

"The man who had approached me initially then slashed me across the face. There was blood pouring from me."

Mr Cotter, who was himself a promising long jumper until his career was halted by a car crash, was treated for his injuries in hospital and is in hiding with Ms Hansen at an undisclosed location outside the West Midlands.

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