A 42-year-old man is feeling under threat and vulnerable after vandals broke into his home and sprayed the words 'No gays' in huge black letters on newly-restored walls.
"I was carrying boxes up the stairs and didn't realise immediately, until I heard the contractor behind me gasping in shock," Andre*, a gay man, told The Sunday Times.
When he looked up he noticed that several of the 16th-century walls, and the mosaic in the shower, were marked with black squiggly scribbles. The homophobic message was prominently sprayed on two walls of a room that, "ironically", was once used as a chapel.
The incident happened nine days ago, but Andre is still coming to terms with it. His real name and exact locality of his property are not being disclosed because he fears reprisals.
"I am afraid for my safety," Andre said, as he stopped to take a break from the painstaking process of removing the paint that seeped into the porous limestone without ruining the historic engravings of galleys.
"Cleaning the walls myself has been cathartic," he said, adding it took several hours to shift the paint.
Andre, who shuttles between Malta and the UK, bought the property with his partner more than a year ago and has since been dedicating a lot of his energy towards restoring it.
He has not encountered any anti-gay sentiments from his neighbours so he was quite taken aback by what happened: "I would like to think it was either a 13-year-old or someone with that mental capacity who did this. I hope it was not somebody seething with hatred (towards gays) because that is not part of my language."
Whoever entered the house scaled down from a neighbouring roof, which narrows down the number of people who could have done it, and soon after the incident he started suspecting everyone.
"Once a thief broke into my house when I was living in Italy and you feel your privacy has been invaded, but this was more personal... It kind of makes me feel like I made the right choice leaving Malta," he said.
Andre immediately called the closest police station, but was shocked by their indifference. The officer on duty did not go to the house, so he went to the police station himself.
"I was trembling and the officer's attitude was reprehensible. He never asked me if I suspected anyone or any other details. For the police it was a simple prank not a personal threat," he said.
The act was first highlighted on journalist Sandro Mangion's blog, who called on the police and politicians to take these cases seriously and send a clear signal that hate crime would not be tolerated.
Initially, Andre was reluctant to share his story, but now that a few days have passed he believed speaking out was important.
Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people increased in recent years as this community became more visible, according to a recent survey carried out by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.
More than 74 per cent of the 150 respondents said they would emigrate given the chance, and 67 per cent listed discrimination as a key factor in this decision. Eight per cent said they had been beaten or attacked in the past two years because of their sexual orientation and half of these said it happened more than once.
* Name has been changed.
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