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Heart-wrenching BBC documentary tells harrowing stories of disability hate crime in Britain

Shocking footage shows a disabled woman being heckled by her neighbours as she is accused of being a benefits cheat in a BBC2 documentary which detailed the harrowing disability hate crimes in Britain. 

Targeted: The Truth about Disability Hate Crime from Richard Butchins, which aired tonight, featured testimonies from a group of disabled people, sharing how being victims of name-calling, physical violence and intimidation has affected their daily lives.  

Former NHS nurse Ailsa, from Northern Ireland, became wheelchair-bound following a road accident, and was forced to flee her home after being relentlessly accused of being a benefits cheat. 

Ailsa had end her career as a nurse after the accident left her unable to walk – but for reasons unbeknown to her, soon faced further torment when her local community accused her of ‘faking’ in order to claim disability benefit. 

The documentary shows footage of neighbours continuously berating Ailsa telling her she had ‘brought on the bullying herself’ and calling her a ‘f****** scumbag’.  

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Former NHS nurse Ailsa, from Northern Ireland, became wheelchair-bound following a road accident, and was forced to leave her home after being relentlessly accused of being a benefits fraud

In October 2019, Ailsa (pictured) was forced to leave her home due to intimidation and attacks on her house

In October 2019, Ailsa (pictured) was forced to leave her home due to intimidation and attacks on her house

‘Working with the NHS and doing something productive,’ she said, ‘I loved what I did helping other people.

‘I would rather have none of this, having people calling you a cheat, having people insinuating that I’m faking my disability and getting something for nothing. I would happily give up what they think I have to have my life back as it was.’   

In October 2019 she was forced to leave her home due to intimidation and attacks on her house, including neighbours repeatedly blocking her driveway and ‘relentlessly stoning’ her property with concrete rocks. 

‘I dreaded going to my home’, she said, ‘I could not sleep because I was constantly alert as to what would happen next’. 

Neighbours would throw eggs, cigarette butts, yoghurt and flour bombs at her home and Ailsa told how some would spread rumours that she was a paedophile. 

Alisa had tried talking to neighbours with no avail, insisting: ‘There was no way I was going to be allowed to live in peace, the taunting, the nasty jibes, I wasn’t respected at all.’  

Elsewhere in the show, Andrea, from Yorkshire, has dwarfism and was left with a perforated eardrum and fractured skull when she was kicked in the head in an unprovoked attack

Elsewhere in the show, Andrea, from Yorkshire, has dwarfism and was left with a perforated eardrum and fractured skull when she was kicked in the head in an unprovoked attack

Hannah, from London, with cerebral palsy, has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse and says she regularly receives abuse about the way she walks

Hannah, from London, with cerebral palsy, has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse and says she regularly receives abuse about the way she walks 

Alisa said the last few weeks in her home were the worst: ‘I knew it had a different sense to it than all the other times, that this would never stop and they were going to do whatever they had to to get me out of my home’. 

In one terrifying incident, neighbours surrounded Alisa’s car to stop her from driving away, filming her while calling her a ‘pathetic liar’ – forcing her to later leave her home under the cover of night with a police escort. 

‘Another crowd had gathered and were starting to attack police, more people were coming and I was petrified, the chanting and the roaring I could hear it while I was trying to get basic things from my house’. 

Alisa teared up as she explained how she was taken to a hotel before being moved into temporary accommodation 10-months ago, still technically homeless as a result of the abuse. 

Also appearing on the programme, Andrea, from Yorkshire, has dwarfism and was left with a perforated eardrum and fractured skull when she was kicked in the head in an unprovoked attack.

Elaine, from Buckinghamshire, had to leave her local area after losing her sight when she became a 'target' for muggings

Elaine, from Buckinghamshire, had to leave her local area after losing her sight when she became a ‘target’ for muggings

Meanwhile, Hannah, from London, with cerebral palsy, has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse, and Elaine, from Buckinghamshire, had to leave her local area after losing her sight when she became a ‘target’ for muggings.

Dan, from Devon, who has autism, was left with suicidal thoughts after being victim of mindless brutal assaults. 

Andrea, who has faced unprovoked verbal and physical attacks as a result of her dwarfism, said it was ‘rare’ for her to be able to leave her home without some form of abuse. 

She told of one occasion while taking her dog for a walk, when she heard a man behind her say to one of his friends: ‘I dare you to go and kick that midget in the head.’  

She added: ‘As I looked over, a man was already almost in front of me and he kicked me in the head, in the face, and then ran off. 

‘I stumbled, I didn’t fall, and looking back I think I was in shock, I sat on the sofa for the rest of the evening, I didn’t speak to anyone, I didn’t tell anyone or do anything I think I was in shock. 

‘As the shock was wearing off I felt angry, I was very angry, like how dare you do that to me, what have I done wrong, I don’t even know you, I would never do that to anyone’.  

Disgusted by the incident, Andrea’s partner encouraged her to phone the police, who advised her to go to hospital where she discovered she had been left with a perforated ear drum and fractured skull. 

Andrea has faced unprovoked verbal and physical attacks as a result of her dwarfism, and said it was 'rare' for her to be able to leave her home without some form of abuse

Andrea has faced unprovoked verbal and physical attacks as a result of her dwarfism, and said it was ‘rare’ for her to be able to leave her home without some form of abuse

The incident was not a rare occurrence for Andrea, who recalled a parent calling her a ‘freak’ after she confronted the woman’s son for taking an unauthorised photo of her, and school bullies who would ‘push her around’ and steal from her.  

Hannah has cerebral palsy, and has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse – left so afraid to leave the house she moved back in with her parents.  

She recalled going clubbing with her two sisters, when a man began shouting at her because of the way she was walking, before throwing his drink on the group and punching her little sister in the face. 

The group were about to leave a club and were queuing for the cloakroom when the man began verbally abusing her. Hannah told: ‘This man starts just pushing me, laughing in my face. 

‘My younger sister saw and she came up to him and said “What are you doing” and he said “Why she walking like that”. 

One of the men’s friends asked whether he could buy the group a drink to apologise for their friends behaviour.  

‘They dashed the drink all over all three of us and punched my younger sister in the eye’, said Hannah.

Hannah has cerebral palsy, and has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse - left so afraid to leave the house she moved back in with her parents

Hannah has cerebral palsy, and has experienced countless bouts of verbal abuse – left so afraid to leave the house she moved back in with her parents

She recalled going clubbing with her two sisters, when a man began shouting at her because of the way she was walking, before throwing his drink on the group and punching her little sister in the face

She recalled going clubbing with her two sisters, when a man began shouting at her because of the way she was walking, before throwing his drink on the group and punching her little sister in the face 

Dan, who has autism, told he gets ‘targeted a lot’ due to his condition, with the public often mistaking him for being a ‘drug addict’.  

‘People are so quick to judge they profile me’, he said, ‘They mistake my autism for being a drug addict or something. I get targeted a lot, I get socially outcast and I’m easily treated as a social reject’. 

He recalled an attack from a woman in a nightclub, who began punching and kicking him after he accidentally bumped into her – an incident which led to Dan being arrested. 

‘I accidentally bumped into girl in a night club’, explained Dan, ‘To her it might have been a horrible barge, but it didn’t feel like it to me. 

‘She chased after me, attacked me, she punched me kicked me – I punched her back once, I was handcuffed and they were ready to take me away. 

‘They were expecting me to be the aggressor but it was the other way around, they had a look at the CCTV and saw I was innocent.’  

He was sent into a deep depression after another violent assault, which saw two thugs dislocate his shoulder after attacking him at a bus stop. 

‘Someone started shouting abuse’, said Dan’s father, ‘Two of them charged into him and started throwing multiple punches, chased after him, tripped him over started kicking him.’ 

Dan, from Devon, who has autism, was left with suicidal thoughts after being victim of mindless brutal assaults

Dan, from Devon, who has autism, was left with suicidal thoughts after being victim of mindless brutal assaults

When asked about the impact of the attack, Dan said: ‘It was a huge, extreme depression, I was suffering in pain and had countless suicide thoughts.’ 

In 2013, Elaine lost all sight in her right eye, while vision in her left eye is like looking through a ‘frosted window’. 

When she lost her sight, Elaine was still working on a local Buckinghamshire estate, with her accommodation provided by her employer. 

She was first mugged while working ‘300 yards from her front door’, with a lack of evidence meaning the case was thrown away by the Crown Court before despite police having a suspect. 

She was mugged again on her way to work shortly after, recalling: ‘I was coming out from the underpass and someone jumped out from the left hand side and stood in front of me and started really shouting at me, give us your money, you’re phone and everything. 

Elaine was first mugged while working '300 yards from her front door', with a lack of evidence meaning the case was thrown away by the Crown Court before despite police having a suspect

Elaine was first mugged while working ‘300 yards from her front door’, with a lack of evidence meaning the case was thrown away by the Crown Court before despite police having a suspect

‘He sort of grabbed hold of my hand and with the other hand he grabbed this screwdriver and stabbed me. The police said due to your disability, it does look like you’re becoming a target in the area’. 

Her employer allowed her to move off-site, however she eventually made the difficult decision to terminate her employment as her job alone meant she would still be a target. 

After quitting her job she sought accommodation from the council, who told her she did not qualify for help as leaving her job meant she had technically ‘made herself homeless’. 

‘Just finding the confidence to go out with a white cain, you feel vulnerable as it is,  said Elaine, ‘Then to be assaulted and attacked it was soul destroying. It got to the point where I thought seriously, is it worth living?’.  

Targeted: The Truth about Disability Hate Crime is available on BBC iPlayer.

If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org


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