A man accused of killing a web designer by punching him outside a Leamington bar on a night out claims he acted in self-defence, a jury heard.
Vijay Masih accepts landing a punch to Robert Bavington’s jaw during the incident in April last year – but claims he had acted in self-defence, the Warwick Crown Court jury heard on Wednesday.
Masih, 31, of Brook Road, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of the 28-year-old Mr Bavington, from Rugby.
Prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith told the jury: “On Saturday the 9th of April Robert Bavington was out with friends in Leamington, and so was the defendant. “They had never met before, but that night their paths were to cross with fatal consequences.”
The trigger which led to the tragic outcome appeared to have been an argument between young women in the two groups, which seemed to subside but then led to a further confrontation between Masih and Mr Bavington’s girlfriend, Ms Paul.
Mr Grieves-Smith explained Masih and his group arrived at the Moo Bar in Russell Street, Leamington, at about 12.20am, with Mr Bavington and his friends arriving a quarter of an hour later.
A young woman with Mr Bavington’s group fell over in the smoking area, which ‘caused some amusement to two females in the defendant’s group’.
“They reacted with a degree of amusement. When they went to go back inside, they stumbled over the feet of Ms Paul,” Mr Grieves-Smith said.
“They believed it was not an accident, and so an argument began between them and Ms Paul.”
Mr Bavington’s sister Amy tried to stop it, and a doorman and one of Masih’s friends, Devindra Samra, stood between Miss Paul and the other two women.
Masih, who was inside when the argument began, came out and spoke to Mr Samra and the two women before speaking to a doorman, possibly to try to get back in.
Mr Bavington did go back inside, shaking hands with Mr Samra on his way, which seemed to show things were cooling down.
But he and Miss Paul came back out after a couple of minutes, and a CCTV recording showed Miss Paul and Masih arguing.
“The position of Robert Bavington throughout all of this was that he was trying to make things stay as calm as he could,” Mr Grieves-Smith said.
“Ms Paul went towards Vijay Masih. A doorman who was present heard an argument between them that he described as being heated.
“There was no evidence Robert Bavington was joining in the argument. He was there as a peacemaker.”
Describing what the CCTV footage showed, Mr Grieves-Smith said Mr Bavington then led Miss Paul away towards Warwick Street.
“Vijay Masih was by the door, standing next to the doorman. If only he had stayed there... but he didn’t.
“He walked in the same direction. He followed them and caught up with them, and they stopped on the pavement.
“The defendant punched Robert Bavington. Immediately he fell backwards and hit his head, and suffered fatal injuries. If only Mr Masih had not walked after them.
“One member of the Bavington group saw a blow struck by the defendant which he says was not in self-defence.”
The incident was also seen by other people including two street pastors, who offer care to people in towns at night.
One of them described Masih shouting at Miss Paul, and Mr Bavington standing between them before being pushed by Miss Paul, causing him to stumble.
He then got back in front of her, and it was then the street pastor described Masih punching him, causing him to fall.
“Other people who were walking past also describe a punch which was not in self-defence, and heard the rather shocking sound of Mr Bavington’s head hitting the ground, and Mr Masih walking away saying ‘I f***ing told him,’” said Mr Grieves-Smith.
He pointed out that another witness talks of hearing Masih saying: “That’s what happens when you f*** with me.”
And he told the jury: “If you’re sure of those words, you will have to consider how they fit with a claim of self-defence.”
It was obvious to paramedics who were quickly on the scene that Mr Bavington had a very severe head injury, and he was taken to hospital where he was given a CT scan.
Despite efforts to save him, Mr Bavington died at shortly after six that morning, having suffered a skull fracture and severe injuries to his brain.
Meanwhile, Masih was arrested within a few minutes, and when he was first interviewed, he made no comment, but in a further interview he asserted he had acted in self-defence.
He said he had followed the couple because he ‘wanted to make everything alright and to make up’, but that Miss Paul’s response was to become aggressive and to lash out.
Masih said Mr Bavington said ‘f***ing idiot,’ which he thought was directed at him, with his arms ‘slightly rising.’
“I just wanted him to back off. I was worried in case I was going to get hit. I just remember hitting him. I thought they were both going to attack,” Masih added.
And Mr Grieves-Smith told the jury: “It comes down to why the defendant was following them. Was it to have a chat? We say the blow was entirely without justification.”
Mr Bavington was a much-loved member of the community who grew up in Stretton-on-Dunsmore – his death rocked the town but there have been fundraising efforts in his memory.
The trial continues.