A man was sprayed with an aerosol can and set on fire as he walked through the grounds of a church, after a group of men questioned him about his sexuality.
After the horrific attack, he needed skin grafts to heal the burnt flesh on his calves after he was badly hurt in the early hours of this morning.
The victim, aged 20, had been walking past Holy Trinity Church on Yarm Lane in Stockton when four men stopped him and started asking him personal questions about his sexual orientation.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman told the Hartlepool Mail: ‘He ignored them and continued onto Parliament Street. One of the men then approached him from behind and sprayed an aerosol can at the victims legs which he then set alight, causing burns to the victim’s calves.’
The attacker who set him on fire is said to be white, in his early 20s, with short blonde hair and medium build. He was bare chested at the time of the assault and wearing jogging bottoms.
The police spokeswoman added: ‘Officers are treating this as a homophobic hate crime and are asking anyone with information to come forward and call police on 101.’