A DISABLED couple forced from their home after suffering weeks of homophobic abuse and anti-social behaviour say they were driven to the brink of suicide.
Keith Stepney, 53, and his partner John Mead, 42, say they regularly had eggs and stones thrown at their home in Warwick Place, Northfleet, and homophobic graffiti daubed on the window.
The couple, who have both suffered from depression and anxiety, kept a log recording around 100 incidents over a six-week period.
Mr Stepney says the trouble started at the end of July when he decided to set up a neighbourhood watch group, but believes they were targeted because they are a gay couple.
“It was living hell, we didn’t know what was going to happen from one minute to the next.
“We couldn’t step outside the door unless my daughter-in-law had her car outside.
“At one stage we got out all our pills and thought it’s not worth going on.
“We just felt we couldn’t go on any longer.”
Windows covered in eggs
Mr Stepney suffers from a nervous disorder and a lung disease, while Mr Mead has mild cerebral palsy and a hip problem forcing him to use crutches.
They say one of their two pet lovebirds died from the trauma of their window being hit.
Mr Stepney said: “There must have been 20 eggs thrown on one occasion.
“Our windows were literally covered in eggs.”
He says the abuse would come from adults as well as youths.
Mr Stepney said: “As they walked by they would shout, call us every name under the sun, we also had adults in cars blowing their horns.
“We got on the 490 bus once and from the moment we sat down there were comments being made by a group of women further back, but we took no notice.
“They got off at the same bus stop and it carried on til we got into the flat.”
He said of another occasion: “I was washing up one day and the same group of youths came by shouting abuse.
“One held his hand up as if it was a gun.”
Mr Stepney claims police only started to act quickly after they made 20 phone calls in three days.
He said: “We were told to just mark it in on our log sheet and not to call unless there was a physical threat to us.
“After it became apparent it was homophobic crime they acted quickly.
“But on Friday and Saturday nights it often took three hours or longer, because police were deployed elsewhere.”
To escape their ordeal the couple last month moved into hiding outside the area.
Police say three youths had been arrested. Two were released without charge and a third was given a warning.
The area commander for North Kent police, Chief Superintendent Paul Brandon, said: “Police in north Kent have worked closely with Mr Stepney and Mr Read to resolve problems they were having regarding anti-social behaviour.
“The Neighbourhood Task Team (NTT) was deployed to patrol at regular intervals in the area and a good relationship was built up between the local PCSO, Tiffany Hills and Mr Stepney.
“This week, he was visited by neighbourhood Inspector Mike Coltham who spoke to him about the issues he faced.
“Insp Coltham made sure he had contacts for neighbourhood officers at his new address.
He added: “Mr Stepney was advised to call 999 if he felt under threat or in danger - following the guideline that the emergency number should only be used in that situation.
“Friday and Saturday nights are inevitably a busy time for us and our resources are often stretched.
“Patrols are deployed on a priority basis and if there was no threat to life or a crime was not in progress at the time of the call, then it may not have been made a priority at the time of the call, depending on what other calls we were receiving, but this is not to say the call was not important to us.
“Patrols did attend to see Mr Stepney. A huge amount of work and resources went into dealing effectively with the situation he faced and I feel we offered a very high level of support to help deal with his situation.”