Premier League footballer Marlon King was jailed for 18 months yesterday for groping a female student and breaking her nose after she spurned his advances in a London nightclub.
The 29-year-old striker, who was celebrating his wife's pregnancy and scoring the winning goal against Middlesbrough while on loan to Hull City in December last year, had insisted it was a case of "mistaken identity".
But after witnesses identified him as the 20-year-old woman's attacker, he was convicted of sexual assault and causing actual bodily harm. The court heard that King, who has three children, told her: "Don't you know who I am? I'm a millionaire," and later dismissed her as "not even in his league" after she and her two friends "recoiled" from his touch.
The woman said he had groped her bottom and "smirked at me in a suggestive way", leaving her "disgusted and shocked". Although she told him to leave, he instead transferred his attentions to two of her friends and began "stroking" their necks.
"I kept on repeating: 'Take your multi-millions and leave – no one cares. Just get away from the table'... I felt really embarrassed," she told jurors.
London's Southwark Crown Court heard that, after King took hold of her wrist and pulled it down, the woman pushed him in the chest. The player then hit the slightly-built university student, "smashing" her to the floor of the Soho Revue Bar.
The punch was so powerful that two other people, one of them holding King, were also sent flying. When the woman was helped to her feet, she had blood pouring from her nose and bouncers had to restrain the £5m-valued footballer. King, who admitted downing up to three drinks but insisted he was sober, told the court: "I didn't touch anyone in that club... I didn't smash anybody's face in." But a football coach and other witnesses identified him as the assailant.
After the Middlesbrough match, the player had intended to stay in the North East. But his wife, Julie, a former Miss Zambia, called him to ask him to return to their Hertfordshire home, where she told him she was pregnant. King then went out to celebrate with his half- brother and two friends, saying he had his wife's "blessing".
CCTV images showed King and his companions, wearing matching "NY" caps, skipping the queue at the exclusive bar. Footage taken in the foyer showed the player hugging one woman, who completely ignored him.
After the verdict, the striker had his contract immediately terminated by his current employer, Wigan Athletic.
"He is absolutely sacked – we will not tolerate football players who get sent to jail for 18 months. As far as we are concerned, he is finished with football at Wigan Athletic," club chairman Dave Whelan told Sky Sports News.
A club statement read: "Following the news that Marlon King has been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, Wigan Athletic wishes to confirm that the player's contract will be terminated with due notice, in accordance with the terms and conditions of his contract and the Premier League rules.
"The incident took place whilst the player was on-loan at Hull City but ultimately still as a Wigan Athletic player and a representative of the club. Although the club was aware of the incident at the time, it was not aware of the severity, and therefore believe that the sentence received is justification for the player's actions."
King has been no stranger to controversy during his career. Once lauded as one of the most promising players outside the Premier League, he served five months in prison in 2002 after being caught at the wheel of a stolen BMW convertible. He repeatedly tried to bluff his way out of trouble, telling police the £32,000 car belonged to him.
Since the age of 17, the Jamaica international has been in the dock on seven previous occasions for 13 offences including dishonesty, drink driving and other motoring offences, as well as violence against women.