A MAN spat on and punched a transgender woman after hurling verbal abuse at her in Southampton, police say.

The incident happened in Ludlow Road when the man abused the woman, specifically about her gender identity, before spitting in her face and punching her in the head several times.

He then spat in the face of a man who tried to intervene and help the woman.

Police say the attacker is believed to have come from a white BMW estate parked nearby, which was being driven by another man.

The attacker is described as being black, with short curly black hair, and he was carrying a vodka bottle at the time of the incident.

The man who officers believe was with him was seen in the BMW nearby and is described as being Asian and wearing a black vest.

The incident happened at 9pm on Tuesday, July 21, but details have only now been released by police.

PC Alexa Ward said: “People should be able to live their lives free of harassment and fear.

“Targeting someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, or a misguided perception is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

“If you recognise these men, please get in contact with us.

“We encourage anyone who suffers hate crime, or receives a serious threat against them to report it to the police, either by calling 101 (999 in an emergency) or online through the True Vision website at www.report-it.org.uk.”

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, quoting reference number 44200272670.