24 Jul 23

An estate agent who brutally attacked two two gay men with a glass bottle and a metal bar has been jailed.

Usman Murtza, 31, was standing next to his white Rolls Royce when he saw John-Paul Kesseler and Anthony Smith holding hands outside a bar in Birmingham city centre in October 2021.

He expressed displeasure at the fact the the couple were holding hands and told them they ‘shouldn’t be doing that, not everyone wants to see that’.

Murtza then grabbed a bottle from his car and threw it at Kesseler’s face, causing a deep gash, and then wielded a metal bar at both of the men before members of the public intervened and he drove off.

Earlier this year he abandoned his trial and admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault by beating. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail on Friday at Birmingham Crown Court.

In a statement, Kesseler, a student, described his continuing anger at the fact he and his friend were attacked “because of who we are, queer men”.

He branded Murtza an ignorant homophobe and described the look on his face at the time as the ‘purest distillation of hatred I have ever seen’.

Murtza, from Victoria Road, Tipton, has previous convictions for harassment, handling stolen goods and robbery.

He had initially denied the latest offences, claiming he was acting in self-defence before changing his plea.

In court, Murtza said he was ‘unreservedly sorry and ashamed’ about the attack.

The estate agent’s sentence had to be uplifted to account for the homophobic nature of the attack.

Recorder Paul McGrath concluded he would not suspend the sentence and said: “This was a persistent offence aggravated by the demonstration of hostility towards sexual orientation and it had a significant effect on two innocent victims.

“I don’t feel appropriate punishment can be achieved with a suspended sentence.”

CCTV footage captured the attack which took place at 5.13am on 10 October 2021 as Kesseler and Smith were walking to a hotel having been out in Birmingham’s Gay Village.

Prosecutor Francesca Perera said: “They encountered the defendant near the old Jester bar standing next to a white Rolls Royce.

“He asked why they were holding hands and told them they “shouldn’t be doing that, not everyone wants to see that”.

“They continued to walk holding hands. Mr Kesseler said nothing was wrong with what they were doing. The defendant became aggressive and grabbed a bottle from the car where an unknown male attempted to pull him away.”

She said Murtza threw the bottle, which struck Mr Kesseler in the face, and then grabbed a pole striking both men on the arms as they defended themselves.

Other witnesses intervened and Murtza drove off. Paramedics took Kesseler to the hospital where the cut above his eye had to be glued. He was left with a scar.

In a letter, Murtza said: “I would like to offer my very sincere apologies to John-Paul Kesseler and Anthony Smith for my stupid and dangerous behaviour.

“I’m sorry you were the victims of my behaviour and I’m sorry you were injured as a result and you will remember everything that evening from the moment I interrupted you.

“I am not proud of what I did. My parents are struggling to show support. I am unreservedly sorry and ashamed.”

Richard Butcher, defending, told the court Murtza ran his own estate agents, was married with a young child and had a number homosexual friends.

He argued the offence was ‘wholly out of character’ based on references from people who had spoken of him, and added: ‘This situation seems to have blown up and escalated very quickly.

“The fact Mr Murtza has shown hostility towards two fellow human beings because of their sexual orientation is something he is deeply ashamed of.

“Being Asian in this world also comes with a degree of being subjected to hostility. Mr Murtza knows only too well the effect of his actions.”

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