Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 15:57 UK

Death accused used 'self defence'

Mohammed al-Majed
Mohammed had been living with a family in the town for five weeks

A man accused of killing a 16-year-old Qatari student in East Sussex acted in self-defence when he punched him during a melee, a court has heard.

Mohammed al-Majed died three days after the fracas in Hastings on 22 August.

George Austin, 22, of Barkworth Road, Bermondsey, south London, denies manslaughter.

He told Lewes Crown Court he punched a boy because he feared he was going to be attacked, but had not intended to hurt him.

The Crown claims that Mohammed died from head injuries following the fracas.

It alleges trouble started when Mr Austin's co-defendant Paul Rockett assaulted Mohammed's friend, Peter Henworth, 17, because he was black.

'Stood my ground'

In a prepared statement read to jurors, Mr Austin said he and a group, including Mr Rockett and co-accused Alexander Quinn, had been drinking at a local pub.

Mr Austin said an argument broke out when they visited a kebab shop later.

In his statement, Mr Austin said he saw a black boy punching his brother and then a group of Arab people attacking his friends.

"At the same time three of the Arab group ran directly at me," he said.

"I thought they were going to attack me. I stood my ground.

I wish to say that I'm really sorry - I never intended to hurt him
George Austin

"As the three of them came up to me I punched the biggest one in the face. I only did it in self-defence."

Mr Austin added: "I wish to say that I'm really sorry. I never intended to hurt him. I just wanted to get to my group who were being attacked."

Mohammed was studying English at a language school in Hastings and had been staying with a family in the town for about five weeks before he died.

He was due to have returned home to Qatar a week later.

Mr Rockett, 21, of Ham Lane, Burwash, near Etchingham, denies racially aggravated common assault.

Mr Quinn, 19, of Mountbatten Close, Hastings, denies wounding with intent, and unlawful wounding.

He is accused of attacking another of Mohammed's friends, 14-year-old Mojeb Qatani, with a bottle.

The case continues.

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