One of four men who went in search of a man they believed had stabbed a friend outside a Cinderford pub has been convicted him of aggravated burglary with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Three other men said to have taken part in the alleged ‘revenge’ mission were cleared at Gloucester Crown Court.
The convicted man, Jake Edwards, 27, of Cedardean, Cinderford will be sentenced on June 21.
Fiona Elder, prosecuting, told Gloucester Crown Court at the start of the trial that at about midnight on August 3/4 Callam Green was slashed on the arm outside the Fern Ticket pub in Cinderford – allegedly by a man who was known to many pub regulars as Paul Harris.
The prosecutor alleged a group of men then went looking for Mr Harris, who they believed had gone to the nearby block of flats where his mother Anastasia Harris and her father Andrew Harris live.
“At this location a line was crossed, as the four defendants are alleged to have taken part in an aggravated burglary of a flat belonging to Andrew Harris and his daughter,” Ms Elder said.
“One of the defendants (Edwards) is then alleged to have returned to a neighbouring flat and assaulted Paul Harris with a weapon.”
Having deliberated for five hours and 57 minutes, the jury of six men and six women acquitted Edwards, Liam Dunton-Baker, 26, of Hazel Road, Drybrook, Billy Head, 28, of St White’s Road, Ruspidge of taking part in an aggravated burglary of a flat in High Street, Cinderford, with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Anastasia Harris, having entered as trespassers with metal poles and a glass bottle.
However, the jury found Edwards guilty of a second charge that only he faced – aggravated burglary with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Paul Harris with a metal weapon.
Another defendant, Sam Willetts, 25, of Pinewood close, Cinderford, was found not guilty of aggravated burglary with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Anastasia Harris on the judge’s direction after the charge was withdrawn.
The jury was told that Paul Harris had gone on the run since the alleged assault.
Barrister Nicholas Sefton, defending Edwards, told the jury: “We are all aware that the events that night centre around the alleged stabbing of Mr Green by Paul Harris. But you’ve been denied hearing any evidence from Paul Harris because he is presently evading justice somewhere in South America.
“He is like a poor man’s ‘Buster Edwards, one of the Great Train Robbers, who went on the run to Mexico for three years before giving himself up.
“You might ask yourself why is Paul Harris not here to give evidence about his presence at the flat in Cinderford’s High Street and tell you what he witnessed and what he saw?”
The jury were told that Paul Harris has been charged with stabbing Mr Green, but having initially gone to Germany he failed to return to Gloucester for his court hearing last August and there is a warrant out for his arrest.
Ms Elder confirmed that Paul Harris was still on the run from justice and said: “He should be facing a trial for his alleged offending but he is now currently constantly looking over his shoulder as a wanted man. He has probably got his feet up on a sun lounger somewhere.
“However the defendants should not have taken the law into their own hands looking for justice. Admittedly these men saw their friend bleeding in the street and were scared that he might die from his injuries and wanted to do something.
“The men would have been distressed and confused about what had happened and were angry with the perpetrator. It may be a natural emotion to want revenge or some retribution and may find it understandable that they found their way to Paul Harris’ mother’s address.”
In closing speeches the defence barristers said there were inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. They claimed that the defendants had only gone to make a citizen’s arrest of a man who they believed had attacked Mr Green.
The lawyers pointed out that the CCTV evidence showed the four defendants arriving at the block of flats at the same time, but independently of each other and there couldn’t have been any agreement between them because they had not all been together prior to the alleged stabbing and therefore it was not planned.
“They were not out for revenge,” said Mr Sefton. “No attempted was made by Edwards to get at Paul Harris when he went back to the flat for a second time. He didn’t try to get through his mother and he didn’t swing a metal bar. He walked away from the situation.
“Does that sound like the actions of a man hell bent on taking revenge with a weapon? He retreats when he is told to leave. He was simply looking to have words with Paul Harris to make sure he didn’t get away.
“Edwards saw for himself that Paul Harris was injured and the state he was in when he left the flat. He was satisfied that Paul Harris didn’t pose a threat to anyone and left when he was told that the police were on their way to the property.”
The jury heard from Anastasia Harris who stated she saw Mr Dunton-Baker and Edwards openly carrying a large metal tyre iron. Mr Head was said to have been carrying a glass bottle.
She said her own door was forced open and the men screaming at her demanding to know where Paul Harris was.
The jury then heard that Anastasia Harris had taken a photograph of Edwards in the communal entrance when he returned to the property carrying a weapon. She also said she saw Edwards strike the door of the neighbouring flat and gain entry to where Paul Harris had entered just moments before.
Pina Silvio, defending Mr Head, said that Anastasia Harris did not call the police when the incident happened and added that it was her father who called the police when he got home.
Ms Silvio added: “Anastasia Harris would have realised the seriousness of the situation having seen the amount of blood in the communal hallway.”
She added that Mr Head denied any intention of causing any harm to Paul Harris and maintained he and his friends were only intending to make a citizen’s arrest.
Rhianna Fricker for Mr Dunton-Baker, pointed out that Anastasia Harris had said another neighbour witnessed the events but nobody came forward to state they had seen anything.
Ms Fricker told the jury: “If some of Anastasia Harris’ evidence is wrong or she is not sure what happened , how can you be sure of Mr Dunton-Baker’s guilt?
“Yes he may have arrived at the flat with Edwards but he didn’t have a weapon with him. He maintains that his main objective was to make sure Paul Harris did not escape.”
The jury heard that Mr Green was taken to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital following the incident and was treated for serious lacerations injuries.
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