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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Man acquitted of harpoon attack
X-ray of the three-pronged harpoon in the face of the 15-year-old boy
An x-ray shows how the harpoon became wedged in the boy's face
A man accused of firing a harpoon into a teenager's face has been cleared of all charges against him after a jury accepted he acted in self-defence.

Nathan Kirk was cleared of unlawfully possessing an offensive weapon after earlier being acquitted of two charges of grievous bodily harm with intent.

The 25-year-old, from Hungerford, Berkshire, was also cleared of grievous bodily harm, on Thursday.

The harpoon fired into Matthew Hawkins' face, causing him to lose an eye.

Nathan Kirk
Nathan Kirk said he was acting in self-defence
Mr Kirk himself had been stabbed close to his heart during the fight in March 2003.

The jury at Reading Crown Court decided that the gun had been fired by Mr Kirk accidentally during the fight.

He brought out the scuba gun when a gang, including the 15-year-old, arrived at his girlfriend's flat in Thatcham following an argument over vandalism to a telephone box.

During the brawl, it was fired and became lodged in the teenager's face.

'Overjoyed and relieved'

Mr Hawkins' injury was so serious that he lost an eye and paramedics had to use bolt-cutters to cut off part of the three-pronged harpoon.

Mr Kirk left the court without commenting to reporters waiting outside, but a statement read by his solicitor Georgina Murray said: "He is overjoyed and relieved that this traumatic case has now come to an end.

"He now wants to put the past 14 months behind him and get his life back on track.

"He is eternally grateful to his mother, father, family and friends for their support during the most difficult period of his life so far."

'No legitimate purpose'

Defence lawyers said Mr Kirk had acted in self-defence, fearing further life-threatening attacks.

He was bleeding so much that one witness said he thought he was wearing a red t-shirt even though the defendant was bare-chested.

Michael Topolski QC, defending, also argued that the weapon had gone off by accident when Mr Kirk was hit in the face with a baseball bat.

But prosecutor Julian Baughan, QC said that the gun had been fired deliberately.

He added that Mr Kirk was keeping the gun as a weapon claiming that it had "no legitimate purpose" on dry land.

'Harpoon attack' not deliberate
23 Jun 04  |  Berkshire
Harpoon 'kept instead of a gun'
22 Jun 04  |  Berkshire
Man 'fired harpoon in boy's face'
16 Jun 04  |  Berkshire

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