Teacher jailed for planning football riot at rail station

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The Independent Online

A schoolteacher was jailed yesterday for organising a mass brawl between rival gangs of football holligans at a railway station.

David Walker, head of year at a Birmingham boys' school, was sentenced to two years and three months for helping to orchestrate a fight between Charlton supporters and South- ampton fans at Maze Hill station in south-east London, in April 2002. Walker, 37, a Southampton fan who called himself "Three Lions", posted messages on internet forums to set up the confrontation before a match at Charlton's ground, The Valley, Kingston Crown Court heard.

Seventeen men have been jailed for a total of 38 years for their part in their brawl. The fighting lasted for two minutes and three of the injured were admitted to hospital.

Judge Fergus Mitchell said passengers had fled and children had been heard screaming as the men rampaged through the station hurling broken beer bottles, kicking and punching each other. Sentencing seven of the men, he said: "This was a plan which resulted in terrifying violence in a public place."

Police launched one of the largest investigations into football hooliganism after the brawl and believe many of those jailed had been planning violence at of this summer's European Championships in Portugal. Many of those involved met through trips to England matches in Europe and maintained contact through a series of websites and round-robin e-mails.

The court was told that Walker, a married man with children, was likely to lose his job as a history teacher at Turves Green Technology College, after being unveiled as the "linchpin" of the hooligan network.

Police said Walker, from Stafford, had not taken part in the clash between 30 Charlton and 15 Southampton fans at Maze Hill, but had been instrumental in arranging the incident in a series of web postings, e-mails and phone calls.

Judge Mitchell branded him a "bedroom general" and said: "You come at the top of the list of those responsible through your contributions to the website. One cannot help but feel revulsion for your part in this conspiracy. There you were talking about the way [you] would fight and incite others to do the same when it is clear that you would not move from your computer."

Police said the Southampton fans got off the train two stops early to avoid police on duty at Charlton station."This offence involved planning and the premeditated use of violence, Judge Mitchell told the men. "Your reason may have been the perverse enjoyment it brought."

Alan Kent, for the prosecution, said the hooligans sent each other running updates on plans for the battle by text message and later boasted about the violence on websites. Officers conducted dawn raids at 22 addresses in Hampshire and London to seize computers and telephones which helped to unravel the "organised and intense" planning and uncover the chief instigators.

Steven Carpenter, 39, of Eltham, south-east London was jailed for four years. Five others were each sentenced to two years: Andrew McConville, 35, of Abbey Wood; William Joseph Greenall, 32, of Plumstead; Neil John Shaw, 39, of Erith; Christopher David Bowles, 22, of Southampton; and Stephen Trevor Openshaw, 30, of Leigh, Lancashire. All seven had been convicted or pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and were made the subject of six year football banning orders. Ten others were jailed earlier for their part in the fight.

Detective Inspector Karl Skrzypiec, who led the inquiry, said there was "no doubt" that members of the gangs were intending to cause trouble while following England this summer. He said their sentences should act as a serious deterrent.