Soap star cleared of racial abuse
EastEnders actress Linda Henry has been cleared of racially abusing a council warden after being asked to pick up a cigarette butt.
The actress was accused of telling a community warden "Do you know who I am, I'm Shirley", before hurling racial abuse at her outside a Jamie Oliver restaurant.
The 55-year-old, who plays Danny Dyer's on-screen mother, Shirley Carter, in the BBC soap was found not guilty of calling the woman a "n*****" after being reprimanded for dropping a cigarette butt outside the premises.
The incident took place near Jamie's Italian in Greenwich, south east London, on September 14 last year.
Dressed in a black suit with white shirt, Linda dipped her head and embraced supporters after the verdict was read out.
Henry was charged under her married name, Varilis.
District Judge Nigel Dean said: "Ms Varilis is of previous good character, which means that she has enhanced credibility, in addition to which she is someone who does not have the propensity of behaving in the way that the Crown allege that she did on the occasion in September."
Adding that there was no "corroborative evidence" to support the version of events given by the alleged victim, warden Iyabo Adetokunbo, he dismissed the charge against her.
The court was read a transcript of Henry's police interview.
In it, she told the officer that, when approached by Ms Adetokunbo, she said "What?", not knowing what the warden wanted.
Linda continued: "I said 'Well, if you know who I am, go away and leave me alone."
Asked if she had said to the woman "Do you know who I am?", Linda told the interviewing officer: "I can swear to God, I would do a lie detector, I would do anything.
"I would never, ever, ever, say that to a member of the public, or anybody."
The court heard Linda took a sharp breath when it was put to her that the allegations were that she had called the warden "n*****".
"I totally ... I might take her to court. That is absolutely disgusting.
"She told me she knew who I was anyway and that she would get me," Linda told the interviewing officer.
She added that it was "really difficult" doing what she does because someone is always "out to get you when you've done nothing wrong".
Linda firmly denied racially abusing Ms Adetokunbo and told the officer: "Absolutely not. I would swear on my children's life, deathbed even.
"(I am) absolutely shocked that somebody could make up such an awful thing. I did not racially abuse that woman - it is not in my psyche."
Taking to the witness box to defend herself, Linda told the court that she finds the word n***** "repulsive" and would never use the racist slur.
She said: "If I heard somebody else call somebody else that, I would be absolutely outraged and I would call the police immediately, (not) wait until the next day.
"I think it is repulsive."
Linda told court that she lives in the multi-racial area of Peckham, is married to a Greek man, and has a "mixed-race daughter".
When it was put to her that she had lost her temper that day, Linda said: "No, I did not."
She told the court that if she had used "possibly the worst word in the English language" then she would have no career.
The actress said that most of the time when she is approached by members of the public it is "lovely", but there is a small percentage who believe she is the "strong, feisty" character she plays in EastEnders and abuse her.
The court also heard evidence from EastEnders' executive producer, Dominic Treadwell-Collins.
He said that, although he had a cold and the "biggest week" in the show coming up, he would not be giving evidence if it was not important.
Mr Treadwell-Collins described Linda as a "low-maintenance" member of the crew, who "says it how she sees it".
Asked if he thought she would used racist terms such as n*****, he replied: "That is absolutely the last thing on earth I would expect Linda to say."
In a statement to the court, Linda's black co-star, Diane Parish, who plays Denise Fox in the popular soap, said she did not think the actress would use racist language such as that alleged.