A young homeless man with learning difficulties was dragged from his tent, punched and burned with a lighter, in a brutal attack.
Police said they were hunting for two male supects and one female, after 20-year-old Rob Cox was found unconscious with bruising and burns on his face and arms.
Mr Cox, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been homeless since September last year and pitches up in Harlow, Essex.
Lauren Turner, his friend, said: ‘He was in his tent minding his own business and a group of three dragged him out, punched him and burnt him with a lighter.
‘He passed out. His friend found him lying on the floor.
‘(Later) he told me what had happened.’
Mr Cox was left with a black eye and a burn mark the size of a lighter.
He spent six hours in A&E being treated for his injuries.
Ms Turner had no idea why the thugs had targeted her friend.
‘He is a nice guy. He has Asperger’s syndrome and does not have many friends,’ she said.
Essex Police are appealing for witnesses who may know anything about the attack, which took place in woodland at around 11pm on July 5.
A spokesman said: ‘Two men and a woman kicked and punched a 20-year-old man several times, before burning him with a lighter.
‘The victim was taken to hospital with non-serious injuries. Police are treating this as an isolated incident and there is no threat to the wider public.’