Nurse In Tears As She Is Cleared Over Football Brawl
A nurse who said she abhorred violence wept yesterday as she was cleared of orchestrating a “mass brawl” by a pack of Wolves fans in London’s West End. CCTV footage allegedly captured Claire Evans, 38, who lives in Cwmbran, “encouraging and directing” up to 20 fellow football supporters to charge a small group of pub-goers.
Her “targets” were butted and punched, with at least one victim being kicked repeatedly on the ground, London’s Southwark Crown Court was told. But Evans, who cares for the terminally ill, said rather than help stage the mob-handed violence following Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 1-0 defeat to West Ham United, she had done her best to avoid a confrontation.
The four-woman, eight-man jury trying the case, took just more than four hours to decide she was telling the truth and clear her of one count of violent disorder. As the verdict was returned, Evans, who has had to live with the case hanging over her for more than two years, burst into tears.
Outside court she spoke of her relief at the jury’s verdict, but said, “I have utter contempt for those who have been involved in this prosecution.” She insisted she had been “wrongfully imprisoned” and made to stand trial for something she had not done. Things should “never have got that far”, she said.
“I have received hate mail, anonymous phone calls and my Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket was taken from me. I am a full-time mother and a law student and this has severely impacted on my life. I have, on two occasions, attempted to take my own life when the pressure has become too great,” she added.
David Povall, prosecuting, said the build-up to the Saturday evening clash outside Charing Cross Underground station on October 2, 2004 was first spotted by a council CCTV operator. As he watched, he allegedly saw the nurse – formerly from Bearwood, Birmingham, but now of St Dials Road, Cwmbran – telling a large group of Wolves supporters who to attack.
But Evans explained nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact she was trying to warn them away from trouble and pointing to one of the security cameras she knew was filming them. She went on to tell the jurors some of those who were injured by her fellow Wolves supporters had earlier groped a young, “vulnerable” woman she was caring for, and then pelted her and her friends with bottles when they protested at their behaviour.
In the confusion that followed, word wrongly spread she had been the one who was molested. Evans said she not only did her best to explain what had really happened, but also to dissuade them from seeking revenge against the “gropers”.
“I strongly disapprove of violence,” she insisted. Unfortunately no one listened to her. “I was sober, I was frightened. I did what I could to stop the fight and left when I was unable to,” she added. Her then fiance, now her husband, was one of those involved in the ensuing attack and among 15 Wolves fans subsequently jailed for up to 16 months each.
London’s Southwark Crown Court had earlier been told West Midlands police football intelligence unit took months of comparing surveillance stills of the nurse and her fiance with fans at matches before their names were discovered. Mr Povall had said he wanted to make it clear there was “no evidence she directly became involved in any fighting”.
The barrister told jurors the first sign anything was amiss early that Saturday evening came when a Westminster Council CCTV operator “noticed a gathering of men in Leicester Square”. As he focused various cameras on them it became clear they were having some sort of discussion.
“People were also on mobile phones,” the barrister explained. Suddenly the group disappeared into the “milling crowd” before being spotted once more outside Charing Cross station. “They were seen to join up with other people including this defendant and her fiance, Gregory Elliott.
“As far as Clare Evans is concerned…she is an enthusiastic and genuine Wolverhampton Wanderers fan. There is no suggestion that her involvement in support of Wolverhampton Wanderers is anything but as a proper, genuine fan. We don’t say Clare Evans is a football hooligan,” said counsel.