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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"She has told police she will never return to her house"
 real 28k

Tony Garbett, Superintendent, West Mid Police
"It is clearly racially motivated"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 March, 2000, 18:32 GMT
Racists target top athlete
Hansen was sent a racist letter after the attack
Top athlete Ashia Hansen has gone into hiding with her boyfriend, after he was stabbed in what police are describing as a racially-motivated attack.

"It is absolutely clear that the attack was racially motivated

West Midlands Police
Chris Cotter, 28, was parking his car near her home in Erdington, Birmingham on Tuesday evening when he was approached by a man who made racist comments about Ms Hansen, also 28. A gang of white men then attacked him.

Mr Cotter, who is white, is thought to have been attacked because of his relationship with international triple jumper Ms Hansen, who is black.

He was stabbed three times in the back and slashed across the forehead, police say. He was also kicked and punched.

Ashia Hansen and Chris Cotter
Happier times: Ashia Hansen and Chris Cotter
The couple have moved to a secret new address outside the Birmingham area, and police say they have no plans to return.

Superintendent Tony Garbett of West Midlands police confirmed that a racist letter was posted by the attackers to Ms Hansen the day after the incident.

"It contained racist, offensive material and was clearly linked to the attack," said Superintendent Garbett.

"It was posted on Wednesday morning, the day after the attack and was sent to Ashia at home."

"It is absolutely clear that the attack was racially motivated."

Supt Garbett
Supt Garbett shows how Mr Cotter was knifed
Mr Cotter, a long-jumper, was taken to the Good Hope Hospital in nearby Sutton Coldfield and was released on Friday.

Supt Garbett said the couple were upset but "OK" after the attack.

"Mr Cotter's injuries will take some time for him to recover from," he said.

"The mental side will have to be dealt with over the coming weeks, but the couple are going to get on with their lives."

Attack condemned

The attack has been met with horror by fellow athletes.

"UK Athletics is absolutely appalled at what is believed to be a racially motivated attack on Chris Cotter, and totally deplores racism in any form," said a statement issued on Friday.

"Everyone in athletics would wish Chris Cotter a speedy recovery."

Ms Hansen competes for the Shaftesbury Barnet club in London and moved to the West Midlands to be near her coach Aston Moore.

Ashia Hansen
Ms Hansen has set a world record in triple jumping
Other high-profile mixed-race couples have been the target of racist attacks, including campaigns by Combat 18 and a Danish group in 1997.

Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies and her former husband athlete Derek Redmond were among the targets.

Police believed at the time that extreme right-wing group Combat 18 had supplied the addresses of couples in Britain, including several high-profile athletes.

Police say they have few details of Mr Cotter's attackers, but one is described as aged 26 to 30, 6ft 3in tall, of stocky build and wearing a dark coloured heavy duffel coat. He is said to have a Birmingham accent.

Anyone with information about the attack can contact police on 0121 322 60778, or can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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21 Sep 98 | Commonwealth Games
Hansen produces golden leap
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