The man brutally murdered in a Plymouth park - and how the city will remember him

Terry Sweet was attacked in Central Park in 1995. Credit: ITV News

Twenty-five years ago, two gay men were brutally attacked and tortured in a Plymouth park.

Now, there are plans to create a permanent memorial to remember them.

In the early hours of 7 November, 1995, Terry Sweet and Bernard Hawken were violently assaulted in Plymouth's Central Park.

They were tortured, mutilated, and left for dead.

Terry, who was 64 years old, died at the scene, and 54-year-old Bernard died many years later as a result of his injuries.

In the days following the attack, vile homophobic graffiti was scrawled at the scene, threatening further violence against the LGBT community. It left young gay men fearing for their safety, but in time it came to be seen as a watershed moment.

Plymouth was left shocked by the attack in 1995. Credit: Plymouth Live

The three teenagers who carried out the attack were quickly caught and, eventually, jailed for life. But the legacy of this awful incident lives long in the memories of those who were there at the time.

As the city marks the anniversary of the vicious assault on Terry Sweet and Bernard Hawken, members of the LGBT community have joined with Plymouth's first openly gay MP Luke Pollard to call for a plaque to commemorate their lives - and to highlight the ongoing struggle against prejudice and hate.

Vile homophobic graffiti was left at the scene of the attacks. Credit: Plymouth Live

Alan Butler, founder of Pride in Plymouth, said: "I just remember being really scared, and thinking Plymouth is a dangerous place for me to be and perhaps not a place I'm able to come out as a gay man.

"It was a scary time.

Alan Butler said he felt 'scared' to be a gay man in Plymouth following the attacks. Credit: ITV News

"I think it made people think they had to stand up and be counted," Alan Butler added.

"People became a bit more open about their sexuality and their gender identity and started having those conversations. It ignited people."

Dave Green, who was a friend of Terry and Bernard, said: "We should always remember where we've come from. It's like having your remembrance services. Marking the death of somebody brings us to a realisation about how much things have improved, how much further we have travelled."

The case led to fundamental changes in the police, leading to more diversity and inclusion, and better connecting the force with then-hidden parts of society. 

Former Detective Superintendent Stuart Newberry, who led the case, said: "It really brought it home that there were sections of the community that didn't have the confidence in the police to report incidents. That was a real big lesson.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Newberry speaking to the media in the 1990s. Credit: ITV News

"It meant the police had to be much more aware of their conduct, of the way they interacted with members of the public and other agencies."

The gruesome nature of the injuries inflicted upon the two men had a profound effect on those who witnessed the aftermath.

Mr Newberry added: "In our lives there are significant events that have an impact, and certainly for me that event had a huge impact."

Three teenagers were arrested and jailed for life. Credit: Plymouth Live

There are now plans for a permanent memorial in the park to Terry and Bernard. Something understated but just enough to make sure their story is never forgotten.

Mr Pollard said: "I think all LGBT people in Plymouth from that time will remember the sense of fear, the sense of anger, but also the hope that this would produce something better, that we wouldn't have to live with the threat of violence and intimidation. Times have changed, but sadly homophobic attacks do still happen in our city."

There are plans for a permanent memorial in the park. Credit: ITV News

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