Four independent witnesses saw footballers assault man, retrial told

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The Independent Online

A jury in the retrial of two Leeds United footballers accused of assaulting an Asian student was told yesterday four independent witnesses saw the victim being kicked about the head, face and body while he lay defenceless and apparently unconscious.

Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate were among a gang of drunken men who hunted down 21-year-old Sarfraz Najeib, jumped on his lifeless body and even bit him on the face, the court heard.

Witnesses were not confined to Mr Sarfraz's own group of friends, who were yards away, but included a bar worker walking home from work with a colleague. He saw one of the gang step back from the flurry of activity around Mr Najeib and "jump up with both feet in the air, landing with force on his body," Nicholas Campbell QC, said in outlining the prosecution's case at Hull Crown Court.

A woman heading towards a bus stop with her boyfriend saw a man haul up Mr Najeib by his clothing and appear to punch him. She in fact saw Paul Clifford bite him, Mr Campbell said. "To this day Mr Najeib carries evidence of that bite mark on his right cheek."

The England central defender Jonathan Woodgate, 21, of Middlesbrough, and the former England under-21 midfielder Lee Bowyer, 24, of Leeds, deny affray and causing grievous bodily harm with intent in Leeds in January last year, as do two of Mr Woodgate's friends -- Mr Clifford and Neale Caveney, both 22 and from Middlesbrough. The first trial collapsed in April after an article in a newspaper.

Though the gang pursuing the five Asians after a row outside a nightclub was all-white, the motive was not racism, both Mr Campbell and the trial judge, Mr Justice Henriques, told the jury of seven women and five men. "There is simply no evidence that the attack was racially motivated. The simple matter for you is, 'Who did it?'" the judge said.

Mr Campbell said the two motivating factors were alcohol and group loyalties.

The trial continues today.