Meera Syal testifies as daughter is accused of assault

Actress says father of alleged 'glassing' victim threatened to 'take her to the cleaners'

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The Independent Online

Meera Syal, the actress and writer, told a court yesterday that the father of a man allegedly attacked by her daughter had threatened to "take her to the cleaners" during an angry telephone call.

A tearful Ms Syal told Snaresbrook Crown Court that she had two telephone calls from John Pannell in September las t year accusing her daughter of glassing his son in an attack at a birthday party the night before.

Chameli Bhatia, 19, is on trial for allegedly assaulting Christian Pannell. The court has heard that she had held a grudge against him after he split up with one of her friends two weeks previously. Mr Pannell, a male model, needed surgery and 14 stitches for the cuts to his face.

Ms Syal, who rose to prominence as one of the creators of Goodness Gracious Me, told the court that John Pannell told her that his 18-year-old son was in Moorfields Eye Hospital because "of what your daughter's done to him", she said. She told the court that and became "very aggressive" after the actress suggested that it had been an accident.

She said: "He said, 'This is no accident; your daughter attacked my son. I've worked in security, I know what a glassing can do'. The last thing he said before he put the phone down was, 'We're going to sort this'. I felt sick. Utterly sick, and utterly shocked."

John Pannell called back 90 minutes later. "It was so aggressive; he was just enraged,"said Ms Syal, whose husband Sanjeev Bhaskar watched from the public gallery.

"He said, 'We're going to prosecute your daughter; we're going to take you to the cleaners. Your daughter attacked my son. No more contact with us, any more contact is going to be through the police'. Then he put the phone down." Ms Syal said she was shocked when two female police officers arrived at her door later that day.

She said: "Even though Mr Pannell had said he was going to call the police, I just thought he was upset and maybe he'd calm down."

The next month, the family had a letter from Mr Pannell's solicitor stating that he wished to make a claim for damages. The solicitor also asked if Ms Bhatia had a trust fund or any insurance, the jury heard.

Ms Bhatia denies assault, claiming it was an accident. She later sent a text message to Mr Pannell apologising. "I meant to flip your drink as a joke but I think my ring hit your glass which made it shatter," she wrote.

The trial continues.