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Market assailant facing jail after second trial

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: April 30, 2013

A METAL bar attacker is facing a jail sentence after being found guilty of an attack which left his victim with serious head injuries.

Peter Milne armed himself with the makeshift weapon before going to a pre-arranged fight which had been set up in a flurry of abusive texts by his victim Simon Bell.

The two men met at 5am in Tiverton's Pannier Market where Milne pulled the metal bar from the back of his trousers and used it to batter the other man about the head.

Both Milne and his victim had been drinking heavily at parties in different parts of the town and Mr Bell had set the venue for the fight with a text which said "Market, now".

Milne, 33, walked the short distance to the closed-down market but picked up the bar before he left. It formed part of a set of weight lifting kit and was normally used to hold dumbbells at either end. It is only a foot long but is a heavy piece of metal.

The fight lasted only a few minutes with other men gathered round and one joining in to headbutt Mr Bell at one stage before Mr Bell was battered to the ground by the metal bar.

Milne left 31-year-old Mr Bell semi-conscious on the ground and as he walked away he sent a taunting text which read 'Ha, that worked'.

The victim spent a 15 days in intensive care in the neurosurgery unit at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where doctors found nine wounds on his head where he had been hit by the bar.

He has since made a full recovery but told the jury it was a miracle he was still alive and that he had no memory of the fight.

Milne, of Newport Street, Tiverton, denied causing grievous bodily harm, wounding and having an offensive weapon.

He claimed he was acting in self defence but a jury at Exeter Crown Court found him guilty of wounding and having the dumbbell bar as an offensive weapon.

The jury were discharged from reaching a verdict on the charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm and the prosecution will not pursue the count.

The jury reached their decision without knowing he had been cleared of the more serious charge of wounding with intent to cause GBH at an earlier trial in August last year.

The jury in that case were unable to reach a verdict of the other charges.

Judge Francis Gilbert QC, remanded Milne in custody to await sentence. He told him: "The defendant will remain in custody and the sentencing will take place on Friday.

During a week-long trial the jury heard there was bad blood between the two men, who had both been at separate late night parties at Bampton Street and Angel Hill in Tiverton before they arranged to settle their differences in the closed-up Pannier Market.

Milne claimed he armed himself because Mr Bell's abusive texts included threats that he would 'stick him in the neck' and 'have his eyes'.

He insisted his opponent had come at him armed with a blade from a Stanley knife but nothing of this kind was found at the scene and Mr Bell had no chance to dispose of it because he was lying injured in the market.

Milne was arrested hiding on the roof of a friend's house four hours after the fight after getting rid of some of the blood-stained clothes he had been wearing.

He told the jury he used the metal bar after seeing Mr Bell with a knife. He said he hit the other man but it did not stop him, so he hit him again until he went to the ground.

Milne said that Mr Bell then staggered to his feet again and was on the verge of stabbing him when he used the metal bar to subdue him again.

He insisted he stopped hitting him as soon as he thought he was no longer a threat.

He said: "I hit him once on the head. He came back at me and I feared for my life. He had a knife so I hit him again. I was scared. I did what I had to do to avoid being stabbed.

"I did not hit him with full force. If I had done there would not have been a lot of him left. I could see he'd had enough so I stopped of my own accord.

"I was in shock. I had nearly been killed. I was very frightened. The knife was just inches away from me. If I did not have that bar with me I would probably be in the grave right now."

Mr Bell insisted he had never carried a blade and would not have had one on the night of the fight.

He said: "I have no recollection of the circumstances that led me to being in hospital. I have made a good recovery and been told it is a miracle I have done so.

"Whether or not I was in my right mind I would never threaten to take a weapon to anyone. I don't go around threatening people. I would only react if I felt my life was threatened. I am not the sort of person who goes around causing arguments or throwing my weight around.

"There has never, ever been a point where I would carry a weapon."

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