Footballer Darius Henderson’s trial starts in St Albans

Darius Henderson

Darius Henderson - Credit: John O'Reilly/South Beds News Ag

CCTV footage showing Nottingham Forest footballer Darius Henderson throwing punches at a fellow diner in a St Albans restaurant on New Year’s Eve has been shown today (Monday) in court.

St Albans Crown Court heard how the 31 year old footballer and his girlfriend were at Darcys Restaurant in Hatfield Road when a woman confronted them and claimed she had recently had sex with the striker.

And when another diner, John Bell, tried to calm the situation down, the footballer is alleged to have thrown two punches, knocking him to the floor.

Mr Bell, 41, suffered a depressed fracture of his left cheekbone and a cut to his left eye socket. He later had to undergo surgery.

The court was told that the woman who had made the claim was 48 year old Hazel Kent.

At today’s start of the trial Alan Richards, prosecuting, said she wasn’t known to the footballer and his girlfriend, Lucy Caplan, or Mr Bell and his party of friends.

Mr Richards told the court that Miss Kent behaved somewhat unpleasantly towards Mr Henderson and Miss Caplan, ascerting on more than one occasion, in Miss Caplan’s presence, that she had recently had sex with Mr Henderson.

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He went on: “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 heard that on New Year’s Eve 2011 Mr Henderson arrived at Darcys Restaurant with Miss Caplan.

At the time, he played for Millwall Football Club.

Also at Darcys Restaurant was Mr Bell, who was dining with his partner Mr John Lavelle and two female friends.

The jury heard that neither Mr Henderson, who lives in Markyate, or 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.

It was later that night that Miss Kent approached the player and Miss Caplan and claimed she had had sex with him.

The court heard that by the early hours of New Year’s Day 2012, Mr Henderson and Miss Caplan were sitting at the bar in the restaurant.

Also nearby was Mr Bell and his party.

Mr Richards said that at around 1.30am Mr Bell - who was at the bar - started to talk to Mr Henderson.

He added: “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.”

CCTV footage was played to the jury, showing the moment Mr Henderson threw two punches at Mr Bell.

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 pleads not guilty to a 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.

Mr Bell said he had drunk a gin and tonic that night 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 Hospital’s A&E department having a brain scan.

He said he had spoken to Miss Caplan earlier in the evening when she gave him a cigarette outside the restaurant.

Mr Bell added: “She said she was with her partner who was an athlete and showed me a nice bracelet she had got for Christmas.”

The case is proceeding.