Court told ex-Watford FC footballer punched St Albans diner who intervened in New Year’s Eve love-cheat row (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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Court told ex-Watford FC footballer Darius Henderson punched St Albans diner John Bell, who intervened in New Year’s Eve love-cheat row at Darcy's restaurant
A former Watford FC footballer punched a St Albans restaurant diner during a row which broke out after he was confronted with his girlfriend by a woman claiming to have recently had sex with him, a court heard.
Darius Henderson, 31, struck John Bell with two punches after he tried to calm argument down in Darcy's restaurant in Hatfield Road on New Year’s Eve 2011.
At a trial starting at St Albans Crown Court today, a jury heard Mr Bell, 41, suffered a depressed fracture of his left cheekbone and a cut to his left eye socket and later had to undergo surgery.
The drama started at the restaurant when 48-year-old Hazel Kent approached the 31-year-old Nottingham Forest striker and his girlfriend Lucy Caplan at the party.
Alan Richards, prosecuting, said Miss Kent behaved unpleasantly towards the couple and on more than one occasion that she had recently had sex with Mr Henderson.
He said: "There is no reason to believe that this was anything other than pure fiction, but Miss Kent persisted."
The prosecutor said situation escalated when Miss Kent claimed that she could describe Mr Henderson's home and correctly names his preferred brand of underpants.
He added: "It seems she may have correctly identified the brand of his boxer shorts. "Understandably this upset Miss Caplan and perhaps caused some tension between her and Mr Henderson.
"Equally understandably, Mr Henderson was keen that Miss Kent should leave him and Miss Caplan alone."
The court was told that Mr Bell was dining at the restaurant with his partner John Lavelle and two female friends.
The jury heard that neither Mr Henderson, who lives in Markyate, nor Mr Bell knew each other but, at one point in the evening, the victim had been given a cigarette by the footballer's girlfriend as they stood outside the restaurant.
Mr Richards said that at around 1.30am, Mr Bell intervene in the argument started to talk to Mr Henderson.
He said barman Jack Oakley, who was there, was under the impression that Mr Bell was trying to calm the situation down.
He said: "It is possible that his intervention caused Mr Henderson, who was already, the crown say, upset and angered by Miss Kent's behaviour, to perceive Mr Bell as somehow associated with her.
"What is absolutely clear, say the prosecution, is that Mr Bell posed no threat to Mr Henderson whatsoever.
"Even if the intervention was unwelcome, it could not even begin to justify what Mr Henderson then did. "He punched Mr Bell in the head twice. It may be that the first blow did not actually connect with Mr Bell, but the second certainly did and Mr Bell was knocked to the floor."
Following the assault the police were called and Mr Henderson, who played for Millwall FC at the time, was arrested.
In court today, CCTV footage was played to the jury of the moment Mr Henderson had thrown two punches at Mr Bell.
The footage showed the footballer sitting in a white shirt and dark tie at the bar, when he got to his feet and struck the other man, who had been talking to him.
Mr Richards told the court: "In essence, Mr Henderson's case was, as it remains, that he perceived Mr Bell to pose a threat to him. He believed he was going to be hit by Mr Bell and so he hit first in self defence.
"The law does allow for pre-emptive strikes to be launched in self defence, but the prosecution say that is simply not the truth of what happened here.
"If there can be any explanation of Mr Henderson's behaviour, the crown submits it lies in his anger and frustration at what had happened earlier in the evening, which was not of Mr Bell's making."
Mr Henderson denies one charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm.
In the witness box, Mr Bell told the jury he had no recollection of being attacked by Mr Henderson.
Darcy's in St Albans
That night, he said he had drunk a gin and tonic and shared two bottles of wine with his friends, before drinking champagne at the bar. He said his last memory of events was just after 11pm that evening and the next thing he could remember was being in Watford General Hospital's A&E Department having a brain scan.
Earlier in the evening, he said he had spoken to Miss Caplan when she gave him a cigarette outside the restaurant.
"She said she was with her partner who was an athlete and showed me a nice bracelet she had got for Christmas," he said.
The case continues.