Two assailants pleaded guilty in a United Kingdom court to torturing an elderly former magistrate who had recently come out as gay in a local newspaper. Stuart Holland, 45, and his partner Joanna Bath, 46, admitted to shoving a fire-poker down the throat of Vince McMahon and more during the March 2019 assault. According to a report in Kent Online, the couple claimed the incident was the result of a billing dispute, but prosecutors presented evidence the pair were motivated by their own homophobia. McMahan passed away last year from natural causes, but prosecution of the heinous crime continued. Holland and Bath were remanded to custody following their pleadings, and will be sentenced Monday.
“I am shaken by this incident because I wouldn’t expect to be attacked in my own home,” McMahan, a former magistrate and Canterbury city councilor, told police initially. He was 58 at the time. “I’m also upset about being targeted and attacked because of my sexuality.”
He went on to say he was “very wary” to leave his home out of fear he might “bump into” Holland and Bath.
Prosecuting barrister James Ross called the attack “gratuitous degradation” driven by the defendants’ homophobia after reading an article in The Kentish Gazette where McMahan came out as gay. Ross said the 2018 article had lifted a weight off the man’s shoulders but had over time incensed the homophobic Holland and Bath.
Holland, a carpenter, had done work in the past for McMahan, so it was not entirely out of the ordinary when he and Bath knocked on the elderly gay man’s door late one evening the following March.
“While all sitting in the living room Stuart Holland made a comment about Vincent McMahan’s sexuality,” Ross told the court during trial, stating Holland then grabbed a nearby fire-poker which he used to beat McMahan about the legs.
At this point, Ross said Bath removed a heavy stick from her purse and started striking McMahan on the back of his head, while Holland took the poker and rammed it into McMahan’s mouth, causing him to choke and gag. Throughout the torture and assault, the pair hurled homophobic slurs at the elderly victim, calling him a “pervert” and worse. McMahan was eventually able to escape his tormenters and alert the authorities.
McMahan told reporters in 2018 he made the decision to come out after suffering a heart attack at the Limes gay bar in Canterbury.
“You can only bottle things up for so long,” he said at the time. “They bubble away and they bubble away, and then there comes a point when you’ve got to open the valve and release the inner pressure.”
Both defendants pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm and theft. Bath pleaded guilty to additional unrelated theft and drug charges at an earlier hearing. Her defending barrister said Bath had fallen on hard times after being the victim of an assault, but the judge seemed to have little sympathy, telling the pair to prepare for time in jail at sentencing on Monday.