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A woman who challenged the racist rantings of a man on a York train won applause from her fellow passengers – and praise on social media.

Maxie Wade stood up to the man on the late-night First TransPennine Express service, which got into York after midnight on Sunday (October 9). British Transport Police confirmed they were investigating the incident and appealed for witnesses to get in touch.

Maxie Wade

Maxie Wade

Maxie, 25, was travelling back to her York home after a party in Leeds when a man further down the carriage started swearing loudly.

At first she ignored it, but started taking notice when he said: “Where the fuck are you from?”

She realised that he was verbally attacking another man on the table next to him who spoke with an accent from eastern or southern Europe.

Maxie said the perpetrator was being “really aggressive” and started “interrogating” his neighbour, saying things like: “Are you a student who is going to fuck off back home when you’re done?”

Egged on by his friend, the man also said he voted Brexit and had lived in York “all my life”. His victim, who was travelling alone, tried to ignore the threatening behaviour.

‘Absolutely disgusting’

A few people tried to tell him to shut up but he swore at them and carried on making the racist comments. Maxie then made her way down the carriage and challenged him saying: “How dare you talk about people in that way?”

She said he responded by saying “Who rattled your cage, love?” which left her incensed.

Maxie told him:

What makes you think you can talk to me in that way?

And you don’t know this guy, you don’t know anything about his life, you know nothing.

He has as much right to be here as you do. It’s absolutely disgusting racist behaviour.

That led to others in the carriage applauding her.

Maxie decided to get the train conductor to intervene and walked the length of the train before finding a member of staff in First Class. But she said he told her she needed “to find the other conductor for that” and “it’s not my job to get involved”.

She said she was shocked by that response and would be making a complaint to the train company.

A spokeswoman for First TransPennine Express told YorkMix: “We do not tolerate this kind of behaviour.

“A full investigation is taking place to get to the bottom of this matter.”

Appeal for witnesses

York Station at night. Photograph: YorkMix

York Station at night. Photograph: YorkMix

Someone did call the police because two officers met the train when it pulled in to York station and spoke to the man and his travelling companions. Maxie told the officers she was a witness and passed on the details.

The BTP want anyone who may have been on the train and who witnessed the incident to come forward and contact them on 0800 405040 or text 61016.

A spokesperson for BTP said:

Everyone has the right to travel on the rail network without fear of intimidation, abuse, violence or the fear of being targeted because of who they are or who others perceive them to be.

We take all reports such as this extremely seriously and won’t tolerate behaviour where someone is singled out because they’re different, or made to feel uncomfortable on their journey.

Maxie, who works for the NHS in York and also performs as a stand-up, told YorkMix: “I never thought something like that would happen in York, because we voted Remain, it’s quite a progressive place.

“It gives us all a bad reputation. I felt awful, it made me really upset.”

‘I would do it again’

When she posted about the experience on Facebook she won praise from all sides. Bex Sando described what had happened as “shocking and amazing… Thank you for standing up for what is right.”

Charmian Hughes wrote: “Hero! They say that in any negative depressing situation, to restore your faith in human nature ‘look for the helpers’. You were that helper and once you stepped in everyone followed your lead, whether by clapping or making that important call to the police.”

Maxie felt she had to make a stand. “I have so many friends from overseas, and I wondered what would they think if they saw me and I just did nothing? I’d be absolutely ashamed of myself.

“We need to shame our fellow British people who are racist. We need to stand up and say, ‘this is not acceptable’.

“I would do it again.”

She described Brexit as “the most heartbreaking thing that’s happened in this country for a long time. It does worry me deeply.”