Saturday 24 February 2018

Man screamed abuse at Usain Bolt before throwing bottle, court hears

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

Ellen Branagh

A MAN screamed abuse at Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt before hurling a bottle at the start line of the men's Olympic 100 metres final, a court heard today.

Ashley Gill-Webb, 34, pushed his way to the front of an exclusive seating area without a ticket and shouted things like: "Usain you are bad, you are an a*******," the court was told.

He then threw the beer bottle as the race - which Bolt went on to win in 9.63 seconds - started at the Olympic Stadium in east London on August 5.

Gill-Webb, from South Milford, near Leeds, was confronted by Dutch judoka Edith Bosch, and then restrained by LOCOG volunteers and arrested by police, the court was told.

Gill-Webb denies using threatening words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, as well as an alternative charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

Opening the case at Stratford Magistrates' Court in east London today, prosecutor Neil King told the court the Games had reached a highlight with the men's 100m final.

He said: "In the stadium, along with the many thousands who should have been there legitimately and were watching the race in hushed anticipation, was also Mr Gill-Webb who it is now accepted was unwell at the time.

"His conduct at the time however, the Crown say, was one that was causing harassment, alarm and distress to those around him and his conduct was one that he intended to cause harassment, alarm and distress.

"He had somehow, without a ticket ever being found on him, made his way into very exclusive seats indeed.

"He was mingling with members of the Dutch Olympic team. Indeed he would be within striking distance of a bronze medallist Ms Edith Bosch.

"Whilst there he hurled abuse towards the athletes in the final, particularly towards the eventual winner Usain Bolt."

He said Gill-Webb threw a bottle in the hushed stadium just as the race was about to get under way: "He threw a green Heineken bottle in a lobbing motion that was captured on CCTV.

"This bottle landed extremely close to the athletes and it's probably luck rather than Mr Gill-Webb's judgment that it did not do anything far more serious."

Mr King said: "His conduct, that is to say the shouting and jostling, had already alarmed and disrupted those around him but throwing the bottle was a step even further and led to confrontation with Ms Bosch."

In a statement read to the court, Ms Bosch described how she was in a seat one row back from the front, and Gill-Webb pushed past her to get to the row in front of her.

"I saw him begin to shout towards where the competitors were lining up to start the race," she said.

"He was shouting specifically at Usain Bolt. Things like, 'Usain, I want you to lose, Usain, you are bad, you are an arsehole'.

"He repeated these taunts over and over, it went on and on for about two minutes."

She described a volunteer approaching Gill-Webb and summoning him back to his seat, which she said seemed to make him angry.

"He was still looking towards where the athletes were lined up to start the race," she said.

"At this point I saw the man in front of me move his arm back behind his head and then forwards in a throwing motion.

"I then saw a bottle hit the track, it was a green Heineken bottle.

"I had seen the man in front of me previously holding a Heineken bottle so even though I was focused on looking at something else, he was right in front of me.

"With the motion he made as well as the bottle simultaneously hitting the track, I knew he had thrown it."

As he started to move away, she confronted him, saying: "Dude, are you crazy?," the court heard.

"He was trying to walk away so I pushed him hard to stop him," she said.

"I was angry with what he had done which was so disrespectful."

Ms Bosch said she was "flabbergasted" with what she had witnessed, saying: "such behaviour is so inappropriate", and added: "I was sad to miss the 100m."

Fellow witnesses described seeing Gill-Webb shouting at the finalists, hurling insults at Bolt, fellow Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, and US sprinter Justin Gatlin.

Student Farzin Mirshahi said she heard him yell: "Believe in Blake, no Usain."

Her brother Kiya Mirshahi, also a student, said he heard Gill-Webb shout: "Usain, no, Justin you are a druggie, believe in Blake, no Usain, no."

Security guard Robert Spears saw Gill-Webb jostling his way through the Dutch fans and then saw him throw a bottle towards the starting blocks.

"I feared at this point that he was going to disrupt the Games," his statement, which was read to the court, said, and he described grabbing Gill-Webb with another member of staff and escorting him from the stadium.

"At no point did he ever try to explain himself or deny what I had seen, but just demanded to know who had won the race," Mr Spears said.

Gill-Webb, on whom police never found a ticket, was arrested and taken to a nearby police station, where his behaviour was described as "somewhat unusual", the court heard.

The defendant maintained he had nothing to do with throwing the bottle but said he had been "quite hyper" at the time.

Mr King said although it was accepted Gill-Webb was unwell at the time, the Crown say he knew what he was doing, and being unwell did not mean he did not intend to cause harassment, alarm and distress.

Detective Constable Kevin Guest told the court Gill-Webb's DNA was later found on the bottle.

He said video clips showed it landing near the start line, as well as Gill-Webb throwing it.

He said police Gill-Webb gave some "no comment" answers when detained, as well as a prepared statement signed "Alan Cumming", and suggested to police that he was the Scottish actor.

The first charge was amended today to show that Gill-Webb is accused, on August 5, 2012, at the Olympic Park, of intending to cause 100m finalists harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or disorderly behaviour, thereby causing spectators present at the Olympic Park harassment, alarm or distress, contrary to Section 4(a) of the Public Order Act 1986.

Video footage played to the court showed Gill-Webb among Dutch athletes and appearing to throw the bottle.

Det Con Guest said after he was arrested Gill-Webb did not make any reference to mental health conditions in a self-assessment form he completed in custody, but the court heard he was sectioned following his first case management hearing in the case.

He has also since lost his job.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Richard Latham said the video footage suggested the 34-year-old - who has since told psychiatrists he does not remember throwing the bottle - appeared to be aware of the people around him and what he was doing.

Dr Latham, appearing for the prosecution, told the court he agreed with Robert Adams, a consultant psychiatrist instructed by the defence, that Gill-Webb was suffering a manic episode at the time.

But he said he did not necessarily agree that meant the defendant was not capable of deciding to act the way he did.

He said: "Mr Gill-Webb was manic and that meant that he was somewhat impulsive, elated, over-confident, perhaps behaving in a somewhat unpredictable and out-of-character way.

"I think there was some impairment in his ability to make a reasonable decision."

But he added: "I don't think that means he was unable to form an intention.

"He was able to form an intention to do lots of other things, lots of other quite purposeful things, including getting to where he got to, which is a pretty staggering feat given the level of security there was there.

"He got to that position and that demonstrated a pretty impressive mental capacity, I would say."

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News