A HAVE-A-GO hero who stepped in to help a woman who was being assaulted was repeatedly punched in the face in a horrific attack.

Former Tory city council candidate Rico Wojtulewicz was walking on Hove seafront when he saw a man “throttling, spitting at and manhandling his girlfriend” in Grand Avenue.

As he intervened, the bare-chested man hit him repeatedly in the face, putting him in a headlock, kneeing him in the body and raining punches on him as onlookers shrieked and shouted “stop”.

Others gathered on the grass then got involved.

A video taken by a passerby appears to show another man, wearing a vest, punching Mr Wojtulewicz on the back of the head.

The 38-year-old had been out walking with his girlfriend on Tuesday evening when the trouble erupted.

In the video she can be seen attempting to break up the fight.

Mr Wojtulewicz said he stepped in when he saw the man with his hands around the woman’s throat and initially thought they were play fighting.

“When he spat at her there was obvious disrespect,” Mr Wojtulewicz said.

“The man just came for me.

“I tried to be as calm as possible. But within a few seconds he was willing to fight. He kept coming towards me.”

Mr Wojtulewicz said he told the man to back off and keep two metres away, in line with coronavirus guidelines.

>> READ MORE: Man repeatedly punched near Hove seafront

“All I was doing is saying ‘calm down, somebody’s going to get hurt – it’s not worth it’. I put my arms down and kept moving. I thought he might tire himself out,” he said.

“Then his friends appeared and I thought ‘I’ve got to get out’. It could have got even more serious – I can take one or two but certainly not a whole group.”

Mr Wojtulewicz suffered a cut to his nose when his glasses were knocked off his face. He said he then had to dodge punches while making sure not to step on them.

He condemned the “mob mentality” of his attackers – and questioned why so many had been gathering on the grass while the lockdown is still in place.

On Twitter, where the video has been shared hundreds of times, Mr Wojtulewicz wrote: “Got a punch for the trouble but we ensured [the girlfriend] had the time to get away”.

Brighton and Hove city councillor Robert Nemeth condemned what he called the “appalling behaviour” of the group and praised Mr Wojtulewicz’s heroism.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Police are investigating two separate assaults which are reported to have occurred on Hove Lawns.

“About 7.21pm on Tuesday, police received a third-party report of an assault on a man close to the junction with Grand Avenue.

“Police are aware a video of this incident has been circulated on social media and are appealing for anyone who saw what happened to get in touch.

“Officers have since engaged with the victim, who had sustained a minor facial injury.

“Shortly before this, a young woman is reported to have been assaulted in the same area.”

Chief Inspector Dee Wells said: “It goes without saying that violence will not be tolerated in our city, or in any other part of the county for that matter.

“Our investigations are ongoing, and I’m urging anyone who witnessed either incident to report it to us online or call 101, quoting serial 1407 of 02/06.

“I’d also like to specifically appeal to the young woman who was reportedly assaulted to come forward, so we can check she is OK and determine whether any offences have been committed.”

Witnesses can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.