Shot defendant granted bail: Police fear that gunmen may strike again, Old Bailey told

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TWO men who attempted to murder a defendant at the centre of a contract killing trial may strike again, a court was told yesterday.

Deith Bridges, 21, was shot in the chest and leg on 13 May, hours after appearing at the Old Bailey where he is charged with hiring a Maori hitwoman to murder a businessman.

Mr Bridges was taken to hospital where he had emergency surgery to remove a bullet from near his heart.

The trial was adjourned after the shooting in Ruislip, west London, until yesterday, when Mr Bridges reappeared at the Old Bailey with his chest heavily bandaged, his arm in a sling and holding a walking stick.

On being told that the police feared for Mr Bridges' safety, Judge Geoffrey Grigson placed the court in secret session, ejecting the press and public, while a senior officer told of the scale of the threat against the defendent. After 20 minutes in chambers, the judge ruled Bridges should be granted bail. Bridges hobbled from court helped by his father and a solicitor.

Miss Rebecca Poulet, for the prosecution, told the judge that a date for a new trial will be set next Thursday.

Mr Bridges, of Leeds, and Paul Tubbs, 34, of Enfield, London, are charged with conspiring to murder Graeme Woodhatch, 38, a businessman who was shot while he used a public telephone at the Royal Free Hospital, in London, in 1992. They are alleged to have hired Maria Ngarimu, 28, to kill Mr Woodhatch for pounds 7,000 because he had cheated both men out of money. She has admitted murder and is due to give evidence in the trial. They are also charged with disposing of the gun used in the murder.