ASDA manslaughter defendant to plead self defence

Luton Crown Court

Luton Crown Court

The man who has been charged with the manslaughter of Asda car park victim Brian Holmes began his trial at Luton Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday, December 10).

Alan Watts, 65, of Lindsell Crescent in Biggleswade, has pleaded not guilty to the offence and the defence claims that he was acting in self defence.

But prosecutor Ann Evans said that Mr Watts’ “moment of madness” has changed people’s lives forever.

The incident occurred on Saturday, August 3 when there appears to have been a dispute about disabled parking in the ASDA car park in Biggleswade.

In a statement that was read out by the prosecution Mr Holmes’ wife, Christine, said the couple had parked at ASDA at 1.30pm. Mrs Holmes left her blue Ford Fiesta in a disabled parking space as she has arthritis and is a blue badge holder.

They looked for shorts in the supermarket but, as they were unable to find any, they walked into town centre where they found two pairs.

On their return to the car park Mr Holmes, of Sandy, returned to the car to drop off the bags while Mrs Holmes began their grocery shopping in ASDA.

Ms Evans said: “That was the last time Mrs Holmes saw him conscious and uninjured.”

When Mr Holmes, who had recently been given the all clear from cancer, reached his car he discovered the defendant, Mr Watts, sitting in his Range Rover Discovery next to Mr Holmes’ parking space, blocking the car’s exit.

Mr Watts later told the police that he had shouted to Mr Holmes, saying words to the effect of “you don’t look like you need a wheelchair.”

CCTV footage was shown to the jury. Ms Evans described how it shows Mr Holmes walking around the front of Mr Watts’ car towards the driver’s window but moving away within seconds as Mr Watts gets out. Mr Holmes is seen to back away from Mr Watts who walks towards him. Mr Watts raises his right arm and twists his torso, then does the same to his left, “consistent with a right left combination punch at Mr Holmes’ face.”

Mr Holmes falls to the ground and Mr Watts is shown getting back into his car and driving away.

Ms Evans described the incident as an “unprovoked violent attack by the defendant which resulted in Mr Holmes’ death.”

When the defence speaks later in the trial a different tale is expected. Mr Watts and the defence will tell how Mr Holmes tried to pull Mr Watts out of the car after he took offence to the wheelchair comment, acted aggressively and swore repeatedly at him.

The defence will state that Mr Watts hit Mr Holmes in a desperate attempt to get away and that he drove away because he feared a further attack.

The police traced Mr Watts because witnesses memorised his number plate, arriving at his home 30 minutes later.

Mr Watts immediately told the police that he had acted in self defence and suggested that Mr Holmes had been drinking because he could think of no other reason for his reaction. But blood tests revealed no alcohol in Mr Holmes’ system.

Mr Holmes was rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge by air ambulance, which Mrs Holmes described as “awful.” Mr Holmes died the following day.

Witness Christopher McKenna saw the incident in his rear view mirror as he was about to leave the car park.

He said: “I saw a chap approach the 4x4. At first I thought it was the driver’s door but later I thought it was the passenger side.

“The man outside was leaning towards the window and at first I thought they were having a conversation.

“I saw an arm come out of the window in a swipe, shooing away. It didn’t connect with him. He jumped back.

“I saw the chap again approach the passenger door. The door opened and then closed again in a swipe.

“The man round the front of the car. I saw the chap getting out of the 4x4. He was lot bigger than the other man.”

He was clear that Mr Holmes was not acting aggressively.

Mr McKenna’s view was then obscured so the next thing he saw was Mr Watts getting back in the car and driving away at a normal speed.

He saw Mr Holmes lying on the ground and people running towards him.

Off duty nurse Patrician Pearson saw the incident and helped Mr Holmes afterwards. Speaking yesterday she said: “It did not look like a comfortable interaction between those two gentlemen.

“One gentleman was on the driver’s side in the car. The man in the car was leaning out of the window and the other gentleman was leaning forward, not aggressively but gently.

“From how I saw the man inside I felt that he was angry. The man outside appeared to be indicating over to where I later learnt was his car.

“The scene caused me concern. I had a strong instinct that there was going to be trouble. I remember thinking I might have to call security.”

The whole thing happened very suddenly, she said. Ms Pearson described how Mr Holmes walked away towards his car. Mr Watts got out of his car and walked towards him. Words were exchanged but she could not hear them.

She said: “I saw Mr Holmes turn to face the gentleman. It appeared to be an appealing action. He put his shoulders up and his arms out with his hands open.

“I saw the driver’s fist go up and the other man tried to deflect the blow . He moved his arms in front of his face.

“I saw the blow contact his face and I shouted “stop.” The second punch came a nanosecond later.

“The victim fell backwards rigidly as though he was made of stone and I heard the crack of his head. He made no attempt to break his fall.”

She said that Mr Watts walked away at a normal pace then drove his car away at a normal speed.

Ms Pearson repeatedly shouted the car’s registration number out and checked Mr Holmes, also giving information to the man calling the ambulance. She described his injuries as extremely serious.

The case is expected to continue until at least Tuesday.


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