A man whose punch felled a man outside a bar in Leamington, causing him to suffer a fatal head injury, denied the blow was ‘entirely without justification’.
Vijay Masih told a jury at Warwick Crown Court today (Tuesday, June 13) he did not hit out through aggression but ‘in panic’ because he thought Robert Bavington was about to hit him.
Masih, 31, of Brook Road, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, has pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the manslaughter of the 28-year-old web designer from Rugby.
The tragic incident took place in the street near to the Moo Bar in Russell Street, Leamington, where the two men, who did not know each other, had been drinking in different groups.
There was an incident in the smoking area which led to a confrontation between Mr Bavington’s girlfriend Lauren Paul and two of the young women in Masih’s group and later, it was alleged, between Miss Paul and Masih.
Mr Bavington, who had been trying to calm things down, led Miss Paul away, but as they walked down the street away from the bar, Masih followed them, said prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith.
“The defendant punched Robert Bavington. Immediately he fell backwards and hit his head, and suffered fatal injuries.”
Mr Bavington, who was managing director of a web design and digital marketing company called Fly Full Circle, based in Fargo Village, Coventry, died shortly after 6am that morning, having suffered a skull fracture and severe injuries to his brain.
Masih was asked why he had followed when Mr Bavington then walked Miss Paul away from the scene.
“I remember Lauren Paul walking away followed by Robert, and I thought if I had a word with them away from my cousins and everyone else, and try to calm things down.
“I spoke to Lauren. As I approached she turned to face me, and I said, ‘Can you just forget the argument. Shake hands with my cousins, and let’s go back inside’.
“She punched me to my chest with her left arm, followed straight away with the right hand which was more of a push to my chest.
“She was just lashing out and telling me to ‘f*** off’.
“I took my hands out of my pockets and put my hands over hers and pushed them down.
“Robert just swore. He moved towards me, and his arms started to raise towards me. I thought he was going to hit me.
“I hit him. I hit him because I thought he was going to hit me. I panicked and hit him first.”
Mr Butterfield asked: “Were you hitting him out of violent aggression or to protect yourself?” Masih replied: “To protect myself.”
Questioned by Mr Grieves-Smith, Masih accepted Mr Bavington had not threatened him, hit him or touched him, and had not done anything aggressive outside the Moo bar, where he had acted ‘as peacemaker,’ or when Masih had caught up with him as he was leading Miss Paul away.
Asking why he had followed them, Mr Grieves-Smith said: “When she went, you had every prospect of continuing the night out, this argument having ended.”
But Masih said: “I believed they would be returning because of the rest of their group being there.”
Mr Grieves-Smith put to him: “Your punch was entirely without any justification at all, wasn’t it?” Masih replied: “No.”
Mr Grieves-Smith: “You punched him in anger, and not in self-defence.” Again Masih answered: “No.”
Giving evidence, Masih said he had driven to Leamington that night with his cousins Samina, Sabrina and Reena Masih, and a friend of his, in his Nissan Micra, while his partner travelled with others in a second car.
Questioned by his barrister John Butterfield QC, Masih said he had two brandy and Cokes in the Moo bar, and was still inside when the initial incident occurred in the smoking area.
“My partner Claire came in and told me that two of my cousins, Sabrina and Reena, were not being allowed back in.”
The jury had heard that Miss Paul had gone back inside after her confrontation with them.
Masih said he went out, and was talking to the bouncer, trying to establish why his cousins weren’t being allowed back in, when Miss Paul came back out and the argument flared up again.
“I just remember the girl coming from behind and words being exchanged between her and my cousins.
“At first I didn’t do anything, but then the blonde-haired girl and my cousins went towards each-other.
“I went to position myself in front of my cousins.
“The girls were just going at each-other, being abusive over the railings.
“Myself, my cousins and the bouncer were at the bottom of the steps towards the road.
“The blonde girl positioned herself on the opposite side of the railings.”
Mr Butterfield said Mr Bavington was there at that stage, and asked whether he was doing anything which caused him concern.
Masih replied: “The only thing he done was he had his arm on my cousin Reena to push her back.
“I said, ‘Let’s go, and I’ll move my cousins back’.
“I just wanted to separate my cousins from the argument, and I tried to move my cousins away.”
The trial continues.