Woodgate is still my best mate, Duberry tells jury

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The Independent Football

Leeds United footballer Michael Duberry said he was devastated to give evidence twice against teammate Jonathan Woodgate, his "best mate at the club" and with whom he was still good friends.

Mr Duberry, a prosecution witness in the retrial of Mr Woodgate and the Leeds midfielder Lee Bowyer, told a jury at Hull Crown Court that his decision to change his evidence and incriminate Mr Woodgate in the assault of an Asian student made him feel "gutted".

But a year of lying to police to protect Mr Woodgate had landed him in the dock with teammates Paul Clifford and Neale Caveney, charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the first trial earlier this year. "From the very beginning, I tried to say things that weren't damaging to Woody but the more I did the deeper it got," he said. "The truth was the only way I could help myself."

On the morning that the first trial would have heard Mr Duberry's dishonest statement, he told Mr Woodgate he had decided to tell the jury what Mr Woodgate had told him; that "We've just had a fight with some Asians", and that Mr Clifford had bitten someone. But Nigel Sangster QC, defending Mr Clifford, said Mr Duberry was forced to change his story in "spectacular" fashion 11 weeks into the first trial.

"By the time you gave evidence, dental casts had been taken and the only possible candidate [for the biting] was Mr Clifford. You had to do something dramatic to get the jury on your side."

Mr Duberry, acquitted in the first trial, says he was talked out of telling the truth by his former solicitor Peter McCormick, also solicitor for Leeds United.

Mr Woodgate, 21, Mr Bowyer, 24 and 22-year-olds Mr Caveney and Mr Clifford deny affray and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Asian student Sarfraz Najeib in Leeds in January last year. The trial continues.

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