Ashdown tells of flick-knife attack after racism row

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The Independent Online
PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES

Political Correspondent

Paddy Ashdown yesterday told how a man held a flick-knife to this throat in a late-night attack during a row over racism.

The Liberal Democrat leader, a former marine, retreated to an Indian restaurant while police arrested a man after the incident in Yeovil, Somerset.

The assault, preceded by verbal abuse from a gang of men, came as Mr Ashdown was making a tour of his constituency with local vicar, the Rev Mark Ellis. The two men set up an anti-racism group, Partnership Against Racial Harassment in Yeovil, in the wake of press reports of harassment of Indian and Pakistani restaurateurs by drunken men after closing hours. A criminal charge is pending against a woman for throwing a fire-bomb into one premises.

The incident took place as the Liberal Democrat leader walked around the town centre at 11.30pm on Sunday. "Suddenly we were approached and accosted by a group of three men in their early twenties," he said. "They suddenly spotted me, and there was a good deal of taunting and abuse."

The gang was joined by another man. "I said to him 'Would you like to come for a walk with me?' So we went for a walk together.

"He kept on saying to me he wanted to stop. Quite suddenly he turned very aggressive and tried to knee me in the groin.Then he pulled a flick- knife out of his pocket and opened it."

Mr Ashdown said the knife was held at the left side of his throat. "That I decided was just a little bit too far so I pushed it away rather forcibly."

t A 51-year-old man was remanded in custody for eight days by Yeovil magistrates yesterday in connection with the incident, charged with possessing an offensive weapon - a knife - and threatening unlawful violence.

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