A GAY couple have become prisoners in their own home after repeated abuse by homophobic thugs.

Britney Waters, from Pitsea, and her partner first encountered the group a week ago after they were spotted holding hands in Eversley Park, Pitsea.

The gang hurled rocks and abuse at them. Since them the couple have received threats, insults, been blocked off from their homes and told to “hang themselves on a bridge”.

The 19-year-old said: “We’re petrified to leave our flat. They told us we’re a disgrace, that they’re going to knock our teeth out and they were going to get people to beat us up.

“It’s so scary, they’ve chased us on motorbikes and we can’t escape them anywhere we go. It’s got so bad that the other day we saw them coming so hid in a bush.

“Most recently, they surrounded us in the middle of the park, so we rang the police. They told us to just walk home and ignore it.

“I keep having dreams about being hurt and I can’t sleep at night.”

The community has reacted with anger at the hate crime.

Mayor of Basildon David Burton-Sampson said: “It’s so sad that in 2019 people like this couple are put in this situation.

“My heart goes out to them, this is absolutely vile. For me, this goes to show that even as we enter pride month and its 50th anniversary, inclusion and diversity is still such a pressing and important issue.

“We must keep fighting for a greater level of acceptance.

“If you’ve experienced hate crime, please contact Essex Police or the Basildon Council inclusion and diversity team.”

Mark Dale, co-chairman of Basildon Pride, said: “This is disgraceful. It’s such a shame that anyone can be discriminated against for loving someone. These people are fearing for their lives.

“A lot are scared to speak out so end up living like they’re in prison.

“Always report it, whether that’s to the police or the council’s hate crime ambassadors, and be proud of who you are everyday.

“There’s places to go, they aren’t alone.”

A spokesperson from Essex Police said: "We take hate crime seriously and would continue to encourage anyone who has been the victim of these prejudices to contact us. 

"Please contact us on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.

"We understand that reporting hate crime can be a difficult first step and, if you do not wish to speak to officers in the first instance, you can head to one of our Hate Incident Reporing Centres or visit www.report-it.org.uk to report online."

You can visit the Essex Police website for more advice: https://www.essex.police.uk/advice/hate-crime/