A GANG of racist thugs attacked Rastafarian Derek Senior in a Bulwell pub and ripped a dreadlock from his head as a trophy, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
Youth worker Mr Senior (50), of Basford, had gone out for a quiet drink with an old work colleague, social worker Ester Robinson.
They were due to meet up with another friend but, disastrously, they went to the wrong pub, the Lord Nelson on Hempshill Lane.
What followed was an horrific catalogue of violence that Judge Jonathan Teare called "the worst case of racially-aggravated assault he had ever seen."
At the centre were Lee Marshall (24), of Hoefield Crescent, Bulwell; Joseph Graham (23), of Teviot Road, Bestwood Park; Robert Watson (25), of Overdale Road, Stockhill; and John McNee (24), of no fixed address. A fifth man was also involved but has never been traced.
The group admitted racially-aggravated assault and were sentenced to a total of 20 years in jail between them.
Judge Teare added: "The dreadlocks were part of Mr Senior's person, his religion. It was like tearing the turban from a Sikh or a crucifix from a Christian."
It was about 10.10 pm on September 9 last year when the five drunken attackers walked into the Nelson as Mr Senior and Miss Robinson were talking and enjoying a game of pool.
Watson kicked Miss Robinson's backside in an unprovoked insult as he walked by.
This sparked a vicious attack, which ended with Mr Senior being dragged by his hair into a corner and beaten with fists and pool cues before the final insult of one of the dreadlocks being torn from his scalp.
The thugs then laughed and danced around triumphantly as the injured Mr Senior and Miss Robinson fled to safety.
Brave Mr Senior, who began growing his dreadlocks in 1972, later told police: "It was the greatest insult I could suffer.
"I am a Rastafarian, it encompasses my life and my religion. I have been more deeply affected than I can possibly imagine. The physical scars and injuries have healed but the mental scars are never likely to heal."
A black and white CCTV video of the violence was played back in court.
It showed Watson clearly kick Miss Robinson and when Mr Senior asked for an apology, Watson offered to take the problem outside before punching him to the right eye, causing a bleeding cut.
Accomplice Graham then waded in and also punched Mr Senior before Marshall hit him seven times with a pool cue.
Graham gestured to bar staff to keep quiet by putting his finger to his lips and then McNee joined in the attack, punching Mr Senior.
They then dragged their victim out of sight of the CCTV camera, amid shouting of racial abuse, and as Miss Robinson tried to help her friend, she too was attacked.
Mr Senior, who sustained a fractured eye-socket and fractured rib, and a bruised Miss Robinson, managed to escape and called the police.
Michael Auty (prosecuting) commentated on the video in court and said: "The whole group are talking and laughing, with the trophies proudly displayed — some of his hair, his dreadlock and hat."
The maximum sentence for racially-aggravated assault is seven years. Watson was imprisoned for six years, Marshall and Graham for five years and eight months each.
McNee was given two-and-a-half-years with an extra three-month consecutive sentence for common assault on a doorman at the Half Moon pub in Hucknall last September. McNee had been out celebrating his 25th birthday and was drunk, the court heard.
Adrian Reynolds (defending McNee) said: "He has asked me to say through the court that he is truly sorry."
Nirmal Shant (defending Graham) said: "He (Graham) was not part of the start of it. What happened is unforgivable."
The court heard Marshall had been drinking for 12 hours before the attack, while McNee said he had tried to stop the assault.
All the defendants had previous convictions for violence.
Judge Teare concluded: "It was a sustained, prolonged, merciless attack for ten minutes, accompanied with grossly racist comments by someone.
"It was a disgraceful attack on a couple of innocent members of the public."