Thursday, 15 November 2007

Protecting A Friend

Anton Ferdinand became involved in a fight outside a nightclub after running "to protect" his friend, he told a court today. The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty to causing actual bodily harm on October 2 last year and affray outside Faces nightclub in Ilford.

He told Snaresbrook crown court he was trying to defend himself after the man turned on him "aggressively". Also in the dock is his friend Edwards Dawkins, 28, of Henry Adlington Close, Beckton, east London, who also denies the charges. Their alleged victim, Emile Walker, 23, has told jurors that after Ferdinand struck him he was punched and kicked to the ground by up to 10 men.

Giving evidence, Ferdinand said he was unaware that a friend in a white shirt, who has not been identified, struck Mr Walker to the side of the head outside the club. "I looked to my right and I saw Emile Walker aggressively running towards my friend and I'm fearing the worst," said Ferdinand. "My purpose was to go and protect my friend."

He said he put his left hand up to act as a "protection shield" and he was shouting but could not remember his words. "When he [Mr Walker] turned around I felt frightened because he did turn around aggressively and I knew it was time to defend myself. I tried to swing at him, to contain him, to grab him, to keep him close to me so he couldn't do anything to me. He was trying to come across to hit me and I'm trying to get to him to try and contain him."

Ferdinand's barrister Antony Chinn QC led him through CCTV footage taken of the events outside the club. Ferdinand said he was trying to restrain Mr Walker but as the pair were wrestling, "Emile Walker was getting the better of me, getting on top of me and pulling my head down."

Ferdinand said he suffered a "bust lip" and a moved tooth during the scuffle, which required treatment from the dentist the next day. "After feeling the pain that I felt from that blow, which shook me up and scared me, I wanted to protect myself," he said. "I tried to hit him back."

He said he tried to punch Mr Walker but he did not think it was a "full on blow". Ferdinand said he was relieved when the pair were parted as he was not an aggressive man and often did work with children from Peckham, south London, to advise them against using violent means. He said that on the way home he was shaken up and in a daze and his lips were throbbing with pain.

Ferdinand told the court he had been in a "bubbly and happy" mood but had drunk no more than four or five whisky and cokes. He said that as he was leaving the club a man kicked him from behind, aggravating a slight hamstring injury from which he was already suffering. He said the kick was "hard enough to make me realise that someone had done something to hurt me".

The bouncer ushered the man outside and a short time later Ferdinand himself went out of the club to wait for Mr Dawkins, who was bringing the car. At this point he saw Mr Walker, who was with a couple of other men and was staring at him. "He was looking at my watch, looking me up and down," said Ferdinand. "I felt uncomfortable with him looking at me like that."

He said he had been mugged the previous year near a nightclub in Croydon and one of the attackers had tried to stab his friend because he wouldn't hand over his belongings. He said that he himself was more co-operative, and handed over his phone, and his chain was ripped from his neck.

Of events outside the club, Ferdinand continued: "Another one of my friends comes up to me and he says to Mr Walker: 'What are you looking at?' and Mr Walker turned to his friend and said: 'Is he for real, I will kill you'." He said Mr Walker's manner was "very serious" but he put his arm around his friend and told him to leave it.

The court heard that Ferdinand had been at West Ham since the age of nine and turned professional at 17. He left school at 16 with three GCSEs, including for PE and music. He told the court that he had received "the odd yellow card" but had never received a red, "touch wood," he said.

He said he had been racially taunted during football games both by another player and by the crowd, but he had never reacted to this and was not an aggressive man. "A lot of people say that that is one of my downfalls as a defender, that I am not as aggressive as I should be," he explained.

The court heard Ferdinand was at the club with about 10 friends after driving there with his cousin and arriving at about 10.30pm. Alex Agbamu, prosecuting, said to him: "It is suggested that this incident was sparked off by a man who Mr Walker believes may be your cousin." Ferdinand, who would not give his cousin's name in court, said that the man who could be seen hitting Mr Walker in the CCTV footage was not his cousin.

Judge William Kennedy adjourned the trial until tomorrow when Ferdinand is expected to continue giving his evidence.

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