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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 19:26 GMT
Footballer 'lied out of loyalty'
Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate rose to stardom with Leeds
Leeds United footballer Jonathan Woodgate lied to police investigating an attack on a student out of loyalty to his friends, a court has heard.

David Fish, QC, barrister for Mr Woodgate, was summing up in the trial of the footballer, his team-mate Lee Bowyer, 24, Paul Clifford and Neale Caveney, both 22 and from Middlesbrough.

All four men deny affray and causing grievous bodily harm to student Sarfraz Najeib during an attack in Leeds in January last year.

Sarfraz Najeib
Sarfraz Najeib suffered several injuries
Mr Fish said his client was from a modest background and had risen to stardom by playing 100 first team games for Leeds United and had a full England cap.

He said there was no forensic evidence linking Mr Woodgate, 21, to the attack and although he had lied to police investigating the assault, he had done so out of loyalty to his friends.

"No blood found on him or his clothing, no injuries," Mr Fish said.

Leeds team-mate Michael Duberry, 26, had already told the trial Mr Woodgate had admitted being involved in the brutal assault on Mr Najeib.

'Tissue of lies'

But Mr Fish described Mr Duberry as an "accomplished and persistent liar".


Rarely, if ever, can a prosecution team have called, knowingly called, such an accomplished and persistent liar

David Fish QC
Mr Fish told the jury of seven men and five women Mr Duberry told "a tissue of lies" in his first statement to police just days after the attack and again in further interviews.

Mr Duberry had told detectives he had not been aware of any violence in Leeds city centre on the night in question.

But he later changed his story and said Mr Woodgate had admitted being involved in the attack on Mr Najeib.

But Mr Fish said Mr Duberry's evidence was "uncorroborated and unsupported".

He said there was no independent evidence in relation to the alleged conversation between Mr Duberry and his client.

"It's one man's word against the other," said Mr Fish.

Michael Duberry
Michael Duberry 'lied and lied and lied'
He said Mr Najeib had been badly injured on the night of 11 January last year.

Mr Najeib, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, suffered serious injuries including a fractured leg, broken nose and a bite mark to his right cheek.

"He should never have been injured, he should never have been attacked and what happened to him you may think was a disgrace," Mr Fish said.

"Whoever is responsible for that attack upon him should be punished.

"What we say is that the evidence simply isn't there, when looked at carefully and analysed, to find him guilty."

The trial was adjourned until Monday.


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