'Drunk star attacked air crew with yoghurt'

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The Independent Online

The guitarist of rock band REM, Peter Buck, drank 15 glasses of wine before assaulting members of British Airways staff with yoghurt in a drunken air-rage incident while travelling from the US to London, a court has heard.

Mr Buck, 44, allegedly concealed a knife up his sleeve during a bout of "childish" drunken- ness and is accused of attacking a cabin services manager, Mario Agius, and an air stewardess, Holly Ward, on a flight from Seattle to Heathrow on 21 April. The rock star's behaviour saw him staggering along the aisles repeatedly, a jury at Isleworth Crown Court heard. He was flying to London for an REM concert in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the role of British-based anti-apartheid protesters in bringing democracy to South Africa, before the group began a world tour.

At one stage, it was claimed, after drinking wine for three hours with his tour manager, Robert Whittaker, and two others, he got stuck between two seats before he was pulled free. He also managed, the prosecution alleged, to cover himself and the cabin services manager with a tub full of yoghurt.

Edward Lewis, for the prosecution, said that, at another point on the eight and a half hour flight, the millionaire, who is a father of two, mistook the hostess trolley for a CD player and tried to insert a disc into it.

Although Mr Buck seemed to be drinking too much he was not behaving aggressively so the air cabin staff complied with his requests for more wine, the court heard. However, his further demands for refills were eventually "diplomatically ignored".

Soon afterwards, he was seen "stumbling up the aisles, bumping into passengers' seats and sometimes landing on them", claiming that one of them was his wife. Mr Lewis told the jury that Mr Buck and his tour manager, who was also said to have drunk several wine refills, were acting like "naughty children".

But Mr Buck was a "pain in the neck with many staff diverted from their duties to calm things down", said Mr Lewis, who added: "It was getting beyond a joke."

He said Mr Buck was so determined to get more drink that he tried "every ruse he could think of", even offering the crew money.

It was then that he got stuck between seats and had to be pulled free, a situation which would have been "hilarious" but for the "tragic nature" of what was happening. Then, said the barrister, he was allegedly spotted trying to slip a knife up his sleeve as he was tidying up.

After the knife was taken from him and he was asked to sit down again, the musician announced: "I am REM and I can make up a story that I was assaulted," Mr Lewis said.

Mr Buck, who appeared in court in a pin-striped navy suit, white shirt and dark blue tie, denies being drunk on an aircraft, two counts of common assault and one charge of damaging British Airways crockery.

The trial continues.