New jury for taxi row attack case

PUBLISHED: 16:35 04 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:18 03 March 2010

THE trial of an Ipswich man accused of brutally attacking an off-duty police officer after a row over a taxi has begun again after a jury which began hearing the case was discharged.

THE trial of an Ipswich man accused of brutally attacking an off-duty police officer after a row over a taxi began again today after a jury which began hearing the case yesterday was discharged.

Martin Evans, prosecuting, told the new jury at Ipswich Crown Court today that yesterday's trial had to be stopped because of problems relating to jurors knowing a witness in the case.

Before the court is 25-year-old Matthew Oakshott, of Byron Road, Ipswich, who has denied wounding Inspector Graham Underwood with intent to do him grievous bodily harm on January 26.

The court heard that Oakshott had already pleaded guilty to a less serious charge of unlawfully wounding Mr Underwood and the issue for the jury to decide was whether or not the defendant intended to cause serious bodily harm to Mr Underwood.

Mr Evans said although Oakshott may have been drunk he was quite capable of intending to do what he did even if he only acted in that way because he was drunk.

He said only if Oakshott was so drunk that he had no idea what he was doing would he be afforded a defence to the charge of wounding with intent.

Giving evidence today Mr Underwood told the court he was an inspector with Suffolk police and had been in the force for 20 years. He said on the night in question he was off duty and had been out with friends in Ipswich.

He had been waiting on his own for a taxi in Lloyds Avenue to take him home, when Oakshott, who he had never met before, approached him and said he was going to share his taxi.

Mr Underwood told Oakshott he was going to Tuddenham Road and this was not in the same direction as Byron Road, where Oakshott wanted to go.

As Mr Underwood climbed into the front passenger seat of his taxi, Oakshott had climbed into the rear of the taxi and had become increasingly upset and aggressive during the journey when he realised the taxi was heading for Tuddenham Road.

At one stage Oakshott had grabbed the collar of Mr Underwood's jacket pulling him back in his seat and threatened to beat him up.

"He was threatening me in a very aggressive fashion," said Mr Underwood.

When the taxi stopped in Tuddenham Road Mr Underwood got out and paid the taxi driver. Oakshott had got out of the taxi as well and had sworn at Mr Underwood and told him "I'm going to sort you out now".

He had then punched Mr Underwood on the right side of his face.

Mr Underwood told the court he had repeatedly told Oakshott that he didn't want any trouble and just wanted to go home. However Oakshott had ignored him and had thrown another punch.

"I was very concerned and worried about what to do. I didn't think it was worth running away because he didn't appear drunk and could have caught me up, so I decided to get him in a headlock," said Mr Underwood.

Oakshott had continued to swear and hit Mr Underwood but eventually stopped and Mr Underwood had released his grip on him.

Mr Underwood had walked off towards his home thinking the incident was over but Oakshott had come after him and started throwing more punches.

Mr Underwood tried to grab him in a head lock again but Oakshott had hit him on the back of the head.

"The blows became sharper and were excruciatingly painful. I felt the back of my neck with my right arm and could feel warm liquid coming out of the back of my neck and head," said Mr Underwood.

"I really panicked, I was very scared and frightened. I panicked because I realised I had been stabbed or something, so I hit him and he eventually stopped. I let him go. I was worried about my head and neck and what injuries had been caused. I managed to stagger home," he said.

An ambulance and police were called and Mr Underwood was taken to Ipswich Hospital where he underwent surgery on injuries to his hand and received treatment to cuts on his head and neck. He spent two days in hospital.

Christopher Kinch, for Oakshott, said he wasn't going to suggest that what happened was Mr Underwood's fault or that there was any excuse for it.

In reply to a question from Mr Kinch Mr Underwood agreed that he was an inspector with Suffolk Police but said on the night in question he was off duty. He said he had not produced his warrant card to identify himself as a police officer at any time during the incident because he had not wanted to inflame the situation.

"I did the best I could in the situation hoping it would go away," he said.

The trial continues.

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