LONDON -- Four teenage boys have been charged with an aggravated hate crime in connection to a suspected homophobic attack on two women aboard a London night bus earlier this year, police said Thursday.
The two women, both in their 20s, were approached by the group of boys after boarding a double-decker bus in the West Hampstead area of northwest London in the early morning hours of May 30. The boys began making "lewd and homophobic comments" to the couple as they sat on the top deck before attacking them, according to London’s Metropolitan Police.
The women were punched several times before the boys ran off the bus. A cellphone and handbag were stolen from one of the women during the assault, police said.
Both women were transported to a local hospital with facial injuries. They were treated and discharged.
An image of the couple on the bus, with bleeding faces and blood splattered across their clothes, went viral on social media in the days following the attack.
"This was a disgusting attack on two women who appear to have been picked out and targeted by a group of youths," Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said in a statement. "The suspects have made a number of homophobic comments towards the couple before throwing coins at them. When the women tried to reason with the group, the attack escalated to an assault."
The four boys, aged 15 through 17, all from London, were arrested in early June. In addition to the aggravated hate crime charges, one of the 16-year-olds also has been charged with theft and handling stolen goods, the other 16-year-old old also has been charged with possession of cannabis and the 15-year-old also has been charged with handling stolen goods, according to police.
They will appear in court on Aug. 21, police said.