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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 14:05 GMT
Man who robbed footballer jailed
West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand
Anton Ferdinand is the younger brother of England international Rio
A man who robbed Premiership footballer Anton Ferdinand following a row over a girl has been jailed for two years.

Leon McDowall, 23, a semi-professional footballer, attacked Rio Ferdinand's younger brother in Croydon, south London, last September.

McDowall accused the West Ham player of talking to his fiancee in a nightclub.

Mr Ferdinand, 20, and two friends, including team-mate, Nigel Reo-Coker, were robbed of more than 37,000 worth of jewellery, watches and phones.

Matheos Lefteris, prosecuting, told Croydon Crown Court that the row started in the Escapades nightclub shortly before midnight when Mr Ferdinand handed a girl his mobile phone in an bid to exchange a number.

32,000 necklace

McDowall, of Thornton Heath, south London, saw what was happening and went up to Mr Ferdinand and quizzed him about the phone number, Mr Lefteris said.

"He was asked not to use it because the girl was the defendant's girlfriend and he agreed not to do so," Mr Lefteris said.

McDowall was later asked to leave the club by security following a separate incident but later saw the players and their friend, fellow footballer Christopher Nurse, at a kebab shop on Croydon High Street.

He demanded Mr Ferdinand's phone and escorted the defender to his car while Mr Reo-Coker was robbed of a 32,000 necklace and a 5,000 Cartier watch by two other attackers.

Gun threat

Mr Lefteris said Mr Ferdinand handed over two phones, including one worth 600, after overhearing one of the attackers talk about possibly using a gun.

After the robbery, Mr Reo-Coker - who recognised McDowall from earlier in his playing career - looked up his picture and name on the website of the club, AFC Wimbledon, and told police.

McDowall, who was playing for Croydon Athletic at the time, was arrested in the club's dressing room the following day just 25 minutes before a cup tie.

Sentencing him, Judge Cedric Joseph said: "I am prepared to accept that he is a good footballer but the fact that he is a good footballer does not mean that he is entitled to a lesser sentence than anyone else."

The other two attackers have never been traced.

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