Detectives investigating a stabbing in Chester which left a man seriously ill in hospital suspect he may have been the victim of an anti-gay hate crime.

The 35-year-old man from Chester remains in a serious but stable condition after on Monday he was stabbed in the chest on the City Walls, an area popular with the local gay community.

Police said they are keeping an “open mind” about the attacker’s motives, but are seriously considering the possibility it may have been a hate crime.

Detective Inspector Helen Spooner said: “While it is too early to say for sure that this is a hate crime, we do know that the area where this attack happened is a well-known place that the gay community frequent, so we have to consider this as a possible motive.

“I must stress that I am keeping an open mind and there could be another motive behind the assault, but my priority at this stage is finding the man responsible for this vicious attack and ensuring the public know what has happened so they can be aware of their own safety.”

She added: “I am particularly keen to trace a group of people near to Iceland that were close to where the incident happened and may have vital information that could prove key to my investigation.”

The suspect is described as a white man, slim, and in his early 20s. He was wearing dark clothing, and was seen running off the walls after the attack.

Chief Inspector Richard Rees said: “This is clearly a very serious and concerning incident but I want to reassure the community of Chester that this is an isolated attack and we have, and will continue to step up patrols in the area so that anyone that has any concerns or information can speak to an officer.

“I would always encourage people to continue to follow basic safety advice and be aware of your surroundings and always tell someone where you are going and when you are due to be back.”

A 57-year-old man arrested in connection with the incident is no longer a suspect under the investigation.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Cheshire Police on 101 quoting incident 994 of October 21, or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.