Friday, July 30, 2010

Arsenal fan cleared after Celtic fans racist taunts

A 20-year-old man accused of stabbing two Celtic fans outside the Houses of Parliament has walked free from court.

Nicholas Marshall was accused of knifing Sean Laverty in the stomach following a confrontation at a bus stop ahead of a Champions League match in London. Mr Laverty suffered a lacerated liver and severe internal bleeding following the incident, while fellow Hoops fan Henry McIver also sustained a hand injury in the struggle.

Marshall fled the scene pursued by more travelling supporters of the Glasgow club, but was tracked down after he dropped his wallet at the scene. Following a week-long trial at Southwark Crown Court, Marshall was acquitted of wounding with intent, after he told jurors he had been "scared" of the rowdy Scottish fans.

Mr Laverty had driven to London with his father Dennis and two friends on August 26 last year to watch the second leg of Celtic's Champions League qualifying round tie against Arsenal. The group spent the day drinking in the area around Trafalgar Square.

Shortly after 6pm, they headed to Whitehall, near Parliament Square, to catch a bus to a pub where they planned to watch the game. Marshall arrived at the bus stop shortly afterwards on his way home from his work as a warehouse assistant packing sunglasses for delivery around the UK.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing a struggle break out before the defendant appeared to pull a knife from his bag and stab Mr Laverty in the stomach. Marshall told the jury that the Celtic fans and Mr Laverty in particular had been aggressive and racist towards him as he minded his own business, surrounding him and calling him a "black c***".

He said he grabbed a large pair of scissors he used to cut bubble-wrap at work out of his bag and waved it around to ward them off. He said: "I was scared. I felt punches and kicks. I thought I was going to get stabbed."

Marshall said he had waved the scissors around, but did not realise he had made contact with either Mr Laverty or Mr McIver. The jury took less than two hours to find him not guilty.

Marshall, of Waterway Avenue, Lewisham, had denied wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding throughout his trial.
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