MELBOURNE: Police were yesterday investigating a torrent of threatening and racist abuse against a French woman on a Melbourne bus that was caught on camera and went viral on YouTube.

The woman and a group of friends were returning from a day at the beach when one of them began singing in her native tongue, which sparked an angry reaction from some passengers on the packed bus.

One aggressively demanded she “speak English or die” and then threatened to cut her breasts off. Another man pushing a pram joined in, shouting: “I'll f***ing boxcutter [knife] you right now, dog!” The woman was then told: “Everybody on the bus wants to kill you.”

The incident ended with a bus window being smashed.

The woman targeted, Fanny Desaintjores, told The Age newspaper she and her friends were terrified.

“I realise that maybe we shouldn't sing on public transport, but I think that's insane that they reacted like that,” she said.

In an opinion piece, Fairfax Media said the most disturbing thing was that so few people spoke up in defence of the woman. “The majority of passengers were silent and impassive, probably wishing they were elsewhere,” it said.

Parts of the incident were caught on camera by stand-up comedian Mike Nayna,

who describes himself as “brown”, and said another man started ranting at him about hating black people.

“He said darkies should be kept at the back of the bus where they belong, before repeatedly yelling ‘I hate blacks’,” Nayna told reporters. – Sapa