Hero student beaten for coming to the rescue of man living on the streets
A mother has told of her shock after her son was punched in the face when he went to the aid of a homeless man who was being verbally abused.
The incident happened in the early hours of Wednesday, outside a Spar store in Botanic Avenue, south Belfast.
Gary McKendry was waiting in a queue when he overheard a group giving a homeless man a hard time.
The 23-year-old said he told one to "leave him alone mate", but he turned on him instead.
Police confirmed that he was then punched a number of times in the face by a male outside the shop.
The Queen's University history and politics student, who has just completed his degree, ended up in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.
Mum Cherith said her son was only trying to help. She explained: "Gary wants them caught, not for the way they hurt him, but for the awful way they abused this poor homeless man."
Gary suffered facial injuries and his teeth were knocked out of place.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Cherith added: "His teeth are all out of shape and he has stitches in his mouth.
"Thank God the roots aren't broken, as the X-rays showed, and he gets his stitches out on Tuesday, so that will help him as he's finding it hard to eat. But he still says he would do the same again.
"It's been a shock for him as he's never experienced anything like that before, never mind ending up in casualty and dealing with the police."
Cherith said that while she was concerned at how her son had been left, she was proud of him for sticking up for the homeless man and relieved his injuries were not more severe.
"I'm shocked at the way they treated that homeless man, never mind what they did to my son," she said. "I'm glad he stood up for somebody that couldn't.
"They were poking the man's face and getting on and all Gary said was, 'Leave him alone mate'. And the next thing, they punched him.
"It was the names and the way that man was being treated... (that's) why he intervened."
Gary was taken to hospital by ambulance for treatment for his facial injuries.
"We are putting our trust in the police," Cherith said. "It won't affect Gary in any way, but it might if the police don't get him (the culprit).
"Gary would stop somebody from hurting a fly in the street. He just didn't want to see anybody getting that abuse. But we are hopeful that the police will get him.
"It's a very sad situation. I'm relieved, but I'm not happy with the way he's been left."
The PSNI is investigating the assault. Officers have asked any witnesses to the incident, or anyone with information, to contact them at Lisburn Road on 101 quoting reference 106 05/10/16 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.