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Footballer shows jury how he punched 'in self-defence'

A premiership footballer accused of hitting a bouncer with a bottle said yesterday that he had been trying to save a friend from being beaten up when he stepped into a brawl outside a nightclub.

John Terry, 21, wept as he told Middlesex Crown Court how he had thrown a punch at the doorman outside the private members club after a late-night drinking session.

The Chelsea player said he had struck out after three security staff from the Wellington Club in Knightsbridge, central London, had "ganged up" on him – but he denied doing so while holding a bottle.

Jurors were told that Mr Terry, who denies causing grievous bodily harm to Trevor Thirlwall, a doorman, had acted in self-defence as he tried to help a fellow footballer, Des Byrne, who plays for Wimbledon. Demonstrating the punch in open court, Mr Terry, a rising star who has captained the England Under-21 side, said: "It was fairly hard, As far as I remember, it hit him in his head, his face.

"The sole purpose was to get people off. I was being attacked by two if not three of them."

Both Mr Terry and Mr Byrne, 21, are accused of behaving "loutishly" in the club with another Chelsea player, Jody Morris, 23, during a visit in January this year. Closed- circuit television footage of the incident shows the men apparently pushing their way back into the club after being ejected and scuffling with Mr Thirlwall, his brother and another doorman before the fight moved outside.

The footballers deny a joint charge of affray. Mr Byrne and Mr Terry also deny charges of carrying a glass bottle as an offensive weapon.

Mr Terry, who was barely audible for much of his testimony, denied he was drunk, but admitted consuming up to two pints of lager, two vodka-based drinks and a "B52" cocktail of Cointreau, Baileys and Kahlua.

The footballer said matters had turned nasty when one of the doormen allegedly abused Mr Byrne for being Irish. When the fight burst on to the street, Mr Byrne was surrounded by Mr Thirlwall and his brother Matthew, a professional boxer, who seemed to be about to kick the player, the court was told. Terry said: "I thought it was two on one and that's unfair. I had seen the young reception guy [Matthew Thirlwall] kick Des and I thought he was going to hit him again so I ran over. That's when the three of them ganged up on me."

Under examination by his counsel, Desmond De Silva QC, Mr Terry said witnesses who had accused him of throwing the punch while holding a bottle were either mistaken or lying. When asked by Mr De Silva whether there was "anything about that night that turned you into some violent creature that wanted to harm people", Mr Terry replied: "No, not at all."

Mr Terry, originally from Barking, Essex, also denied that he had been abusive to a group of Japanese guests entering the club at the time he was being ejected, or that he had accused the doormen of letting in "foreigners".

The trial continues.