09 May 2008
EXCLUSIVE by Michael Parker
A SECOND priest has been beaten up in his own churchyard in the space of just eight weeks in London’s East End — this time over an argument about a football.
The Rector of St Matthew’s in Bethnal Green, The Rev Kevin Scully, was attacked on Tuesday afternoon by three drunken youths who had returned to take their revenge for a row three days before.
He had taken their ball last Saturday after he saw them using a cross on the church as a basketball hoop.
He has been taunted with religious and racist abuse in the past, but believes the beating was more alcohol-fuelled than anything more sinister.
The attack follows the vicious assault on Canon Michael Ainsworth at St George-in-the-East church in Shadwell in March.
But although that attack was treated as a ‘faith hate’ crime, police consider the latest incident as simple assault.
Fr Scully, 45, who was left with two black eyes, cuts and bruises, told the Advertiser: “I’m still a bit shaken up.
“It came out of an incident where some teenagers were using the front of the church as a basketball hoop.
“I took their ball and told them to leave—but they came back on Tuesday, drunk, to demand their ball back and attacked me.”
He recalled: “One of them was instigating the violence.
“I thought the other two were going to stop it, but in the end they joined in.
“Even a passer-by who saw what was going on and tried to intervene got a kicking too.
“I was punched twice in the face, hard, hit again, and kicked from behind.
“I crouched down to ward off the blows before running to the Rectory and calling police.”
Fr Scully added: “My biggest concern was getting the door locked as I thought they might follow me inside.
“But they ran off and I’ve not seen them round here since.”
He branded them “drunken yobs” and said the area suffered anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Mr Scully, however, insists it was not a ‘policing’ problem, but a ‘community’ problem.
“These are someone’s sons, someone’s brothers,” he said. “These people are known in the community.”
“There is a certain racial and religious element to this,” adds.
“I have been and was taunted religiously — and that is a worrying aspect of it.
“But I would not make that a ‘flag of convenience.’
“These are drunken yobs and that is the shame of it.
“They could probably have a very bright future ahead of them if they only did something about it.”
Police are investigating the assault and say they are looking for three Asian youths, all aged about 16.
The attack has also brought condemnation from Tower Hamlets Council.
The authority’s community cohesion spokesman, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, said: “The idiots who carried out this attack have let their community down as well as themselves and their families.
“We will continue to work with the people of Tower Hamlets to stamp out such mindless acts and to encourage tolerance, understanding and co-operation among everyone—regardless of faith beliefs.”
The Advertiser launched a campaign backed by Tower Hamlets council to improve security in the East End’s churchyards, following the March attack on Canon Ainsworth at St George’s in Shadwell.