Jeffrey Phillips, 55, was shoved into the water after confronting the group
A boat owner who was shoved into a canal after confronting thugs for hurling missiles at two fighting swans said today that his attackers ‘are nothing but cowards.’
Shocking footage showed Jeffrey Phillips, 55, being blindsided by a flip flop-wearing yob who pushed him into the water in Limehouse, east London on Friday.
He had approached the group after a girl had kicked two fighting swans, while others had thrown missiles at them.
Police have appealed for information on the youth who pushed Mr Phillips, who was part of a group of around ten people gathered near the edge of the water.
Mr Phillips, who works as a teacher, told MailOnline: ‘I’ve been living on the water for many years so you get to know the ins and outs of the birds’ lives.
‘Swans are very territorial and I learnt a few years ago that when they fight, they fight to the death.
Police are hunting for the thug who shoved Mr Phillips into the water after the video of the incident was shared online
‘I’ve tried to separate them in the past and you just can’t and it’s horrible to watch but it’s just nature.
‘Everybody was watching the swans and I was trying to tell families with young children to keep their kids away when these punks came round the corner throwing bottles, cans, anything they could find to try and separate the swans.
‘But I know you cannot separate swans through distraction or anything like that.
‘It was when one dark curly haired kid threw a nearly full litre bottle of Fanta orange and actually hit the aggressive swan that I said ”You can’t do this, these birds are a protected species”.
‘I went over to have words with him when his big gorilla of a friend squared up to me and the next thing I knew I was in the water. I got hit completely blindsided by another kid and lost my glasses. He should replace them, that’s the least he could do.
‘The water isn’t deep but it’s really manky. It was embarrassing, it was frustrating but then everybody disappeared.
Jeffrey Phillips, 55, was shoved into the water after confronting the group for hurling missiles at the swans
‘I didn’t see exactly where to as I was focusing on not losing my grappling pole and getting back to my boat.
‘They just seem to have a lot of misdirected energy but it’s a completely foreign concept to me to assault someone because you don’t like what they’re saying.
‘There was no threat, I’m 55-years-old, I’m not a threat to anyone so why did you have to blindside me like a chickens***. The guy who pushed me was nothing but a coward, as are the rest of them.’
Mr Phillips, who Is originally from Toronto in Canada and has been living on a houseboat In London for 12 years, believes the rowdy group are local and have targeted him before.
He added: ‘One of them likes to walk along the top of my boat every time he comes past.
‘They live locally and apparently earlier in the day they’d been sitting by the basin drinking and throwing all of their litter into the water.
‘I’ve not spoken to the police yet but I’m pleased they are now looking for the man who pushed me and the girl who was kicking the swan.’
The furious onlooker marched toward the group with a pole after a girl kicked a swan in Limehouse canal, East London
A boy wearing a blue shirt and a black baseball cap pushes the man into the water below
Initially, it was reported that the swans had been mating before the woman kicked them, though witnesses now report that the bird was attacking another.
They claim several people had tried to separate the warring birds before the women intervened.
One told MailOnline: ‘I watched the entire episode and the swans were not mating, they were fighting to the death. One was father of nine cygnets nearby and one was from a pair who were being territorial.
‘They had been sparring for some time before crowds gathered and had sparred several times in previous days without a fight actually breaking out. The girl was trying to separate the swans to avoid one of them being killed.
‘The one to pursue is the idiot boy in the blue shirt who pushed the man in the canal.’
Another added: ‘I was there. I don’t know any of the people involved, but I saw the whole thing. One swan was very definitely attacking the other. He (presumably) was biting the other’s neck and attempting to submerge its head.
‘This went on for an extended period of time, with onlookers attempting to break them up by making noise and after some time, throwing things. There was quite a sizable crowd on the bridge.
‘Obviously this is irrelevant to the pushing into the water of the man who intervened. But the people involved were not just baiting the swans – it was an attempt to break up an attack.’
A third witness also said that the girl had been attempting to break up a potentially murderous battle between swans.
The group watches on as Mr Phillips, still clutching on to his pole, falls into the canal in Limehouse
With the man who confronted them in the water, the group walks off. The boy who pushed him can later be seen riding away on a scooter
He added: ‘The video was only the last 30 seconds. What happened prior to that was that for some reason, a male swan got into a fight with another swan couple nearby.
‘No one was paying attention at that time so no one know what was caused the conflict. Swans are extremely emotional animals and very territorial.
‘So this father male swan went after the other couple swan. And he tried to murder the other male swan by using his mouth and neck to wrestle the other swan’s neck into the water trying to drown him. It was a brutal 4-5 minutes of fighting catching everyone’s attention.
‘One older lady trying to break the fight but the water was too low so she couldn’t reach the fight. She was screaming trying to distract the swan from fighting, some others trying to throw rocks to break the fight.
‘Then a group of young kids as shown in the video walked by. Throwing a few water bottles trying to break the fight as well.
‘The swan fight did break up eventually, and the [attacked] male swan seems to be injured but is able to swim away, leaving the female swan behind. The other father swan then goes after the female swan left behind.
‘[It is then] the young girl uses her feet trying to stop the fight but fails.
‘A guy came out saying loudly to the group of teenagers asking them not to disturb the nature and just leave the swans alone, and don’t throw plastic into the river. Obviously, one of the kids ran from behind and push this man into the river.
‘Yes, it was a bad behaviour, but none of us were worried as that guy was obviously know how to swim from his reaction. He has gone back up to the ground comfortably himself.’
The youth, wearing black shorts and a pair of flip-flops, is seen riding away on a scooter, shouting ‘have that’ after shoving the man into the water.
The Metropolitan Police said that enquiries into the incident and into the identities of the man and woman involved were continuing.
Superintendent Andy Cox previously said: ‘Awful viewing. Animal cruelty is an indicator of many other vile behaviours and a tendency towards other forms of violence.
‘The assault & anti social behaviour needs our action. Help us by letting us know who these offenders are via 101 or confidentially via crimestoppers.’
Twitter users reacted to the shocking footage, former police officer Mike Pannett wrote: ‘Who knew how deep that water was? That could have ended up in life changing injuries to that brave young man.
‘Vile cowards and bullies of the highest order.’
Terry Morgan wrote: ‘Thought swans were protected? Even if not still shocking behaviour. Hope they are identified and caught. Scum bags.’
Some viewers were confused by the footage and thought the girl was trying to separate the swan.
One viewer wrote: ‘These individuals were trying to stop one swan from attacking another. They were not attacking the swan!’
Another Twitter user claimed: ‘They were mating.’
The RSPCA echoed the police’s call for witnesses, tweeting: ‘If anyone has further information on these individuals, please contact us on 0300 1234 999.’