Taunting is part of a footballer's life, Bellamy tells court

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The Independent Online

The Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy told a court yesterday how he was slapped in the face following a nightclub spat with a teenager.

The Wales forward said he was struck following an exchange of words with Sophie Palmer while walking through a corridor at the No 10 nightclub in Cardiff city centre during the early hours of 5 February. Miss Palmer claims she was the one assaulted by Bellamy and his friend, Franklin Lynch, following the exchange of words. Miss Palmer's friend, Holly Smith also accuses Bellamy of assaulting her by grabbing her by the wrist.

Cardiff Magistrates' Court heard that Bellamy, 27, had started the night at the Soda Bar before entering the nightclub. Bellamy, who was accompanied by his co-defendant at the Soda Bar, had also arranged to meet up with the former Wales rugby union international Neil Jenkins, who was returning from Twickenham on the evening of Saturday 4 February having watched Wales play England in the Six Nations.

After drinking around four to five bottles of lager, Bellamy said he moved on to the No 10 nightclub where he headed straight to the Champagne VIP bar. The court heard that some time between 1am and 1.30am Bellamy caught the eye of Miss Palmer, who was walking in the opposite direction to him in the congested corridor which leads between the Champagne VIP bar and the Champagne VIP lounge.

Bellamy's barrister, John Charles Rees QC, asked his client whether anything was said, to which he replied: "She just asked me what I was looking at."

Mr Charles Rees said: "In what sort of tone?" Bellamy replied: "I don't know if sarcastic is the right word but it was in that sort of voice."

When asked what he said in reply to Miss Palmer, Bellamy said: "Not you. If I was looking at anyone it would be those two girls over there. They're far prettier than you." Bellamy told the court there were not actually two girls behind Miss Palmer at the time and added that there could have been bad language between the pair during their exchange.

When Mr Rees asked Bellamy what exactly was said, he replied: "There was a lot of swearing going on. It's a nightclub and it's just part and parcel of what is a conversation these days."

Mr Rees then asked: "Did you refer to her as being fat?" Bellamy emphatically replied: "No." When asked whether he could see whether she was fat or not, Bellamy replied: "No, I could only see her face."

Mr Rees said: "What did she do?" Bellamy replied: "She slapped me in the face." When asked whether he was expecting that, Bellamy replied: "No, not at all."

Bellamy told the court that being a high-profile footballer meant he was used to getting taunted while on a night out. "Some of it can be a little personal," said Bellamy. "Some people are really rude. It's been both men and women but more men if I'm being honest."

Bellamy also denied ever paying Lynch to act as a minder while they were out together. "I've never paid Frank but I make sure he never buys a drink." Bellamy denies both counts of common assault. Lynch also denies one count of assault.

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