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Former Watford FC player Darius Henderson pleads not guilty to restaurant attack
A former Watford FC player pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm, a jury heard today.
Darius Henderson, 31, who played for Watford from 2005-2008, and his girlfriend were confronted during a New Year's Eve celebration by a woman who repeatedly claimed she had recently had sex with him.
When a Good Samaritan tried to calm the situation down the Nottingham Forest striker threw two punches and knocked him to the floor, causing a fracture of his cheek bone and a cut to his eye socket, it was alleged.
St Albans Crown Court heard that a pleasant night out for the footballer and his girlfriend Lucy Caplan, at Darcy's Restaurant in St Albans, turned sour when they were confronted by a woman called Hazel Kent.
In front of Ms Caplan, Ms Kent is alleged to have described Mr Henderson's home and to have correctly identified the brand of his boxer shorts.
Prosecutor Alan Richards said Mr Henderson and his girlfriend ate together in the restaurant and then went through to the bar at about 9pm for after dinner drinks to see the New Year in.
The victim, John Bell, was also in the restaurant with his partner John Lavelle and two female friends. They shared a table in the restaurant and eventually went through to the bar for after dinner drinks at around 11pm.
Mr Richards said: "The two groups had little contact with each other before that, although it seems Mr Bell spoke to Miss Caplan outside the restaurant at some point. Everything was perfectly convivial between them, in fact it seems Miss Caplan kindly provided Mr Bell with a cigarette at his request.
"In fact none of the parties I have introduced so far were responsible for sewing the seeds of tension that night. Another person, Hazel Kent, was present in the restaurant. She was unknown to the two groups I have described.
"For reasons best known to herself she behaved somewhat unpleasantly towards Mr Henderson and Miss Caplan, asserting on more than one occasion, in Miss Caplan's presence, that she had recently had sex with Mr Henderson.
"There is no reason to believe that this was anything other than pure fiction, but Ms Kent persisted. She asserted that she could describe Mr Henderson's home to establish the truth of her assertions. It seems she may have correctly identified the brand of his boxer shorts.
"Understandably, perhaps, this upset Miss Caplan and caused some tension between her and Mr Henderson. Equally understandably, Mr Henderson was keen that Ms Kent should leave him and Miss Caplan alone."
After a member of the bar staff, Jack Oakley, tried to calm down Ms Kent and get her away from the footballer, CCTV evidence is said to show that at around 1.30am Mr Bell talked to Mr Henderson at the bar. Mr Oakley believed Mr Bell was acting as a Good Samaritan and tried to calm things down.
But Mr Richards said: "Neither Mr Bell nor Mr Henderson were connected with Ms Kent but it is possible that his intervention caused Mr Henderson, who the court say was upset and angered by her behaviour, to perceive Mr Bell as somehow associated with her.
"What is absolutely clear is that Mr Bell posed no threat to Mr Henderson whatsoever. Even if his intervention was unwelcome it could not even begin to justify what Mr Henderson then did.
"He punched Mr Bell in the head twice. It is unclear whether the first blow actually connected with Mr Bell, but the second certainly did. Mr Bell was knocked to the floor."
Police and an ambulance were called. Mr Henderson left and was arrested near the restaurant a short while later.
Mr Bell suffered a cut to the outer aspect of his left eye socket and a depressed fracture of the left cheek bone.
Mr Henderson, of Green Lane, Markyate, pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to John Bell on January 1, 2012.
When questioned Mr Henderson said he was acting in self defence.
The case continues.