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Nov, 23, 2006

Bellamy 'grabbed girl by throat', court hears

Craig Bellamy grabbed a 20-year-old woman by the throat with both hands during an altercation in a nightclub, a court was told today.

Sophie Palmer claimed the Wales and Liverpool striker assaulted her in Cardiff's No 10 club after she confronted him for bumping into her.

Palmer told Cardiff Magistrates Court she was walking along a narrow corridor in the club, to the VIP area, when Bellamy - then with Blackburn - bumped into her.

She said was left with bruises around her neck following the incident.

Bellamy, 27, of Menai Way, Rumney, Cardiff, denies assaulting Palmer and her friend Holly Smith, in the early hours of February 5.

Palmer said: 'I turned around and said to him 'excuse me why couldn't you wait in that gap there',' she said.

'He said to me 'you're too f***ing fat to get past me you fat slag'.

'He was very aggressive and very arrogant.

'I shrugged it off, said 'whatever' and kept walking in the direction I was going.'

She said her friends Holly Smith and Katherine Williams had been behind her in the corridor and she then saw Bellamy 'having words' with Miss Smith.

'I can't remember if he pushed her or she pushed him first, but they both pushed each other.'

Palmer said Bellamy then came after her.

'He grabbed me with both hands around the neck and held me up against the wall and he was squeezing.'

Palmer said she could hear people shouting: 'Get him off her,' and that somebody then separated them.

She said that when she pointed Bellamy out to a bouncer and told him what had happened, the footballer's friend Franklin Lynch grabbed her from behind with both hands and forced her out of the room.

She said Lynch was pushing her with both hands and when they reached the club's entrance he held her by the base of her neck and was repeatedly saying: 'Get her the f*** out.'

She said the bouncers were telling Lynch to calm down and he eventually let her go.

Lynch, 52, of Glan-Y-Mor, Barry, South Wales, also denies assaulting Palmer.

Palmer - who had previously worked in the bar for three years - said that after the incident she had bruising to her arms where Lynch grabbed her and two small bruises on her neck where Bellamy had held her.

She added that scarring on her breasts from surgery a few weeks before the incident had started to bleed as a result of Lynch grabbing her.

John Charles Rees QC, defending Bellamy, told the court Palmer had scarring on her breasts because she had gone to Belgium for an enlargement operation.

He also asked why she did not tell police in her initial statements that she had tried to contact Bellamy - through her friend Anthony Quaglia, a talent scout for Blackburn - to say she would drop the charges if he apologised.

Palmer said: 'I didn't think it was particularly relevant.'

The court heard Bellamy was not prepared to apologise for his actions but was prepared to apologise for his friend's behaviour.

Palmer denied seeking anything other than an apology from Bellamy.

She also denied that she had known who Bellamy was until after the incident had happened.

Rees also suggested that she knew Lynch, described in court as a regular at the nightclub and well-known locally for being a martial arts expert.

Palmer also said she had no idea who Lynch was.

Rees then said: 'Do you have a thing about celebrities being in the club?' to which Miss Palmer replied: 'Not really.'

He suggested that when she met Bellamy in the corridor she asked who he thought he was looking at, and Bellamy responded by saying: 'Not you - I'm looking at two girls behind you because they're far prettier.'

Palmer replied: 'No, he didn't say that.'

Asked if she saw Smith smack Bellamy across the head, she replied: 'I did not, no.'

Prosecutor Hammett said that after the the two women made an official complaint to police, Bellamy told officers that the incident started when he caught the eye of one of the complainants.

When she asked him what he was looking at Bellamy said he replied: 'If I was looking at anyone it would be those two behind you because they are far prettier.'

Bellamy said the girl then slapped him and he made a counter complaint to police.

Geraint Richards, representing Lynch, suggested Palmer was the aggressor on the night and slapped Bellamy before his client intervened to pull her away from him.

Palmer denied the claim.

Richards said: 'You lost a bit of pride that night, didn't you? You were the one who behaved badly and you thought because of the pull you had with the manager and the doormen, you could get Craig Bellamy ejected didn't you?'

Palmer replied: 'No I didn't. I wanted an apology.'

Richards then said: 'Later we learn that you wanted more than an apology didn't you?'

Palmer said: 'What I meant by 'more than an apology' was that I wanted an apology from Bellamy and his friend.'

Richards: 'What you wanted was money, wasn't it?'

Palmer: 'No, I'm not interested in money. If I was, I wouldn't be involved in this process because I'm not getting anything out of it.'

The second witness, Katherine Williams, told the court she saw Bellamy grab her friend Palmer around the neck and push her against a wall after they bumped into each other.

'I tried to pull him (Bellamy) off but there was no way I was going to pull him off,' said Miss Williams, who was 18 at the time.

She claimed Lynch then intervened and separated the pair.

Under cross-examination by Charles Rees, Williams admitted her evidence in court differed from the account given to police with regard to where Palmer ended up after Bellamy allegedly lunged at her.

Rees said: 'How is it that when you gave evidence, you didn't give the account in your statement and you changed it in a way that happened to coincide with Sophie Palmer's version?'

Williams replied: 'Because I was nervous.'

Williams also admitted she had seen Palmer lose her temper on previous occasions and hit people.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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