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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 21:00 GMT
Footballer accusation 'mistaken'
Lee Bowyer
Midfielder Lee Bowyer denies the charges
The case against Leeds United midfielder Lee Bowyer was based on "mistake, misunderstanding and misidentification", a court has heard.

The footballer is accused of taking part in an attack on a student in Leeds city centre.

But the prosecution had failed to present the full picture of what happened on the night of the incident, his counsel said.

Desmond de Silva QC told the jury at Hull Crown Court that suspicion was not enough for them to be able to convict his client.


What happened that night were acts of depravity of which human beings ought to be ashamed

Desmond de Silva QC, defence counsel
Mr Bowyer, 24, of Leeds, his team-mate Jonathan Woodgate, 21, of Middlesbrough, and Paul Clifford and Neale Caveney, both 22 and from Middlesbrough, deny causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Sarfraz Najeib.

All four also deny affray.

Mr Najeib, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, suffered a broken nose, fractured leg and a bite mark to his cheek in the incident in January last year.

'Nonsense'

"The more you look at this case the more you are driven to the conclusion the prosecution have put in front of you a selective picture. It is only a part," Mr de Silva said.

"What happened in Mill Hill that night were acts of depravity which human beings ought to be ashamed of.

Sarfraz Najeib
Sarfraz Najeib suffered several injuries
"The question is who was responsible. Before you can convict Lee Bowyer of having participated in that brutality your minds have got to be free of doubt."

Mr de Silva said that one of Mr Najeib's group of fellow students was a football fan who would have recognised Mr Bowyer, yet he told police that he did not see the footballer do anything wrong.

During the attack Mr Bowyer was alleged to have assaulted Mr Najeib's elder brother Shahzad.

But Mr de Silva said: "I can prove that the accusation that he attacked Shahzad Najeib is nonsense."

Chase

He said Mr Bowyer's fellow accused, Mr Woodgate, Mr Clifford and Mr Caveney, had told police Mr Bowyer had been part of a group of men who chased after the students following a confrontation outside the Majestyk nightclub.

But all three had admitted in court they had been mistaken.

Mr Bowyer was the only one of the four defendants to maintain "from day one" that he had never entered Mill Hill on the night, Mr de Silva said.

All the others admitted that they had been there.


On evidence of identification one has to be particularly careful

Desmond de Silva QC, defence counsel
Mr de Silva said the evidence showed Mr Bowyer had not been outside the club when the confrontation took place, and it was "nonsense" to suggest he was part of the chasing group.

Mr de Silva said a witness who had purported to identify Mr Bowyer in a video identification parade had wrongly identified a member of the public in another identification parade.

The witness had also wrongly claimed he had seen Mr Bowyer bite the victim, which scientific evidence had shown to be impossible, Mr de Silva added.

"It is the experience of the courts over many years that more miscarriages of justice have occurred with misidentification than perhaps for any other reason," he said.

"On evidence of identification one has to be particularly careful."

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.


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