LONDON – Controversial MP George Galloway’s alleged attacker, Neil Masterson, who is due in court on Monday, is thought to be the same person who threatened the pro-Palestinian MP on his Facebook page hours earlier.
Masterson was reported to have shouted at Galloway that he was “like Hitler” as he allegedly rained blows on the MP’s head and chest.
According to the Metropolitan Police, Masterson, 39, now faces a series of charges in connection with the assault on Galloway that took place on Friday evening and resulted in the MP spending the night at the nearby St.Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, being treated for severe facial and other bruising and a broken rib.
A Scotland Yard spokesman added that Masterson who will appear at Hammersmith Magistrate’s Court had been charged with “assault by beating which is religiously aggravated on a male in his 60s [Galloway] and also common assault on a male in his 40s.”
The second assault charge relates to a man who reportedly stepped in to protect Galloway during the alleged attack.
Little is known about Masterson, and strict rules govern all comment in the UK press prior to any trial beyond the briefest details of the alleged offender’s name, age and address. However, a Facebook entry for a Neil Masterson reveals that not only is he not Jewish or Israeli, but he is Catholic. And according to reports based on his Facebook entry, he has taken a strong dislike to Galloway because of the MP’s left-wing policies including a well-documented dislike of Israel and Israelis.
After photographs of a heavily bruised Galloway appeared in the UK media, the MP used an article in the Daily Mail on Sunday to describe the attack in West London’s Notting Hill Gate early Friday evening.
“I was walking down the street in Notting Hill in broad daylight and getting into my car when two Moroccan guys approached me. One of them said he was leaving Britain the next day and would love a photo with me for his cafe back home. I stood in the road shaking hands with him as his friend took a picture.”
Galloway then described how, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man “powering towards me like a bat out of hell.”
“He laid into me and was effing and blinding [cursing] about the Holocaust. He looked like the type who works out and moved very fast. He punched me so many times I kept thinking, ‘When is this going to stop?’ “But it didn’t. I went into what boxers call ‘peekaboo style,’ like American heavyweight Floyd Patterson when he fought Muhammad Ali, covering my face and eyes.”
The MP added that his attacker got frustrated his punches were not getting through, and that he had been kicked toward the curb.
“He was so enraged he got on top of me and eventually landed a haymaker right on my jaw. I felt a terrible crack and sickening thud. It went on for about three minutes – a long time when punches are raining down on you. Luckily, the two Moroccan guys pulled him off.”
Galloway then described how his attacker calmly walked across the road and how he [Galloway] drove up the road behind him.
“I was in a bad way, but I was determined he wouldn’t get away with it,” Galloway wrote, so he called the police, who advised the MP to stop following him.
He watched as his attacker went down a side street, but while Galloway was on the phone talking to the police, the man reappeared and walked to a bus stop.
“At this point a police van hurtled round the corner with four police officers in it. Three were women. It was like Cagney and Lacey. I shouted, ‘He is getting on the No. 23 bus’ and the police drove into the middle of the road to stop it.”
Galloway then recalled the policewomen piling on the bus and bringing out a handcuffed man.
The MP told the Mail on Sunday that he had no idea why it happened, though he suspected his attacker was a thug from an extreme right-wing group.
“Regardless of his motives, I have no regrets about speaking out on issues like Israel and the Middle East. We live in a democracy, and as someone who has been elected as an MP on six occasions, I have a right to voice my opinions.
Galloway concluded by commenting that he felt he was entitled to receive a degree of protection from the state so that he could continuing to express his views. And he lamented, “Even though I have just turned 60 years old, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I didn’t land a single blow. But I am not ready to stop fighting for what I believe in yet.”
Galloway courted renewed controversy recently, declaring his Bradford constituency “an Israeli-free zone,” for which he was questioned by West Yorkshire police earlier this month.