A university rower from Thoresway floored two rival competitors after they complained about his rowdy group trashing a KFC following the annual ‘Head of the River’ Thames race, a court London court has been told.
The court was told the incident happened after 6-foot-6 Freddie Strawson, 21, had consumed ten pints and partied at the Thames Rowing Club, Putney until midnight, after competing in an eight-man crew during the March 12 event.
He admits punching another rower in the face in Lower Richmond Road and grappling with another, whose head was cut open, but insists he was acting in self defence.
Strawson, of The Old Rectory, has pleaded not guilty to assaulting Stephen Johnson and inflicting grievous bodily harm on Henry Hogan.
“I saw some arguing going on about the mess involving this Stephen chap and the Newcastle boys and one of them flipped the table over,” Strawson told Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court.
“He was saying: ‘This isn’t right’ and then it turned into an attack on class with him saying us Newcastle University students normally go to private school.
“He was quite angry and aggressive and two others got annoyed, but I was very quiet and helped clear up some of the mess.”
Strawson claims that afterwards, outside, he and two pals were followed by Mr Johnson.
He continued : “He’s having a go at us about the mess we made and the whole class thing and it was really quite threatening.
“I tried to ignore it, but it did not stop so put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him away and said: ‘Leave us alone.’
“Unfortunately this made it worse and almost excites him and he said: ‘I can get you done for assault.’
“He was right behind me being really threatening and I thought: ‘This guy wants a fight’ so I turned around and punched him in the face and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“I felt he was going to punch me. I wanted to stun him and grabbed him so there wouldn’t be a fight.”
Mr Johnson told the jury he was punched for no good reason and ended up on the ground, curled in the foetal position with Strawson shouting: “I’m going to put you in hell.”
Strawson denies yelling that and told the court : “The next thing I knew I heard someone running in and felt the impact of them hitting me from behind shouting: ‘What the f*** are you doing?’
“He was running at me full tilt and we go to the ground. We hit the ground and rolled on the ground.”
Mr Hogan suffered a cut to the back of his head, and the prosecution claim Strawson deliberately threw him head-first onto the pavement.
Blood was pouring from the wound to the back of the unconscious Mr Hogan’s head, but Strawson insists this happened when they both crashed to the ground.
“I could see he was hurt and saw that he wasn’t moving, but this was two 15 stone blokes going to the ground,” he said.
The prosecution say Strawson then kicked the prone Mr Hogan in the head. He denied this and said: “I didn’t kick anyone. There was no kick.
“I feel terrible that Henry was really hurt.”
The hearing continues.