Cyprus victims 'were not drunk'

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The Independent Online
A British tourist who accuses five British soldiers of carrying out a vicious assault in a Cyprus holiday resort was yesterday involved in an angry slanging match with defence lawyers at their trial.

Sacha Wright, a 20-year-old waitress, was told she was not in a position to identify the alleged assailants, who left two of her friends bloodied and needing hospital treatment.

Ms Wright reacted with dismay as it was suggested that her group of four British tourists, two male and two female, had started the fight after a heavy drinking bout.

"Why are you questioning me about the drink? This is about my friend being attacked," she said. "We were not drunk. We were on holiday trying to enjoy ourselves."

The day before, her friend Claire Harbour, a 22-year-old nursery nurse, had been reduced to tears in the witness box, after two hours of questioning.

She said later: "It was horrible. I felt like I was in the dock rather than being a victim. What did I do to deserve this?"

Yesterday, during three hours of questioning Ms Wright, Mr Tasso Katsikides and fellow defence lawyer John Mylonas tried to prove that the prosecution witnesses could not be certain in identifying the soldiers.

Five riflemen, all from the 1st Battalion, King's Regiment, deny causing grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm to Mr Bell, 23, Mr Ford, 23, and 22-year-old Miss Harbour outside a disco at Ayia Napa on 2 August.

Four of the soldiers - Roger Bell, 26, Tim Carter, 27, Steven Wolstencroft 26, Steven Girvan 20 - are on trial at the current hearing.

The fifth, 20-year-old Stuart Spencer, is being tried separately.

Describing the attackers Miss Wright said: "Most had shaved heads, some had eyes which to me seemed scary and they were big men, especially Stuart Spencer."

Having to pick out the men at a police identity parade was an ordeal, she said, adding: "I was scared because I had to put my hand on the chest of a man who attacked my friend."

Although Miss Harbour had picked out Steve Wolstencroft as one of her attackers, Miss Wright said she could not place him at the scene of the attack.

"I don't recognise him," she said as she looked at Wolstencroft. "I can't say I'm sure he was there."

But, she said, she definitely saw soldier Stuart Spencer throwing punches at victim Barry Ford.

"I saw Spencer beating up my friend. I saw him going in," she told the court.

She strongly denied suggestions by Mr Katsikides that Ford and friend Shane Bell, both from London, started the fight with one soldier, telling the lawyer: "I don't know what you're talking about."

The judge, Michalis Christodoulou, then told Mr Katsikides: "You are taking far too much time and going into too much detail because under normal circumstances we would be hearing one witness every hour, not every four hours."

The trial was adjourned until today, when Mr Bell and Mr Ford are due to give evidence.