A chef who slashed a colleague across the wrist with a large knife in a “flaming row” over burnt steaks has walked free from court.

This follows Judge Gerald Keys yesterday imposing a four-year suspended jail term on Songwut Sanban, aged 42, for the knife attack on Neville Fitzpatrick, aged 47, in the hotel kitchen of the Falls hotel in Ennistymon on September 11, 2014.

A chef with 30 years’ experience, Mr Fitzpatrick said he was sure he was going to die after what he called the “vicious assault” by Mr Sanban. Mr Fitzpatrick has not worked as a chef since, and is now a tour guide at the Ailwee Caves in north Clare.

In the knife attack, Mr Fitzpatrick sustained a broken left wrist, had one tendon severed, and another severely damaged. On the night, it was Mr Fitzpatrick’s belief that Mr Sanban “had sabotaged his steaks” that were ordered by a group of golfers.

Mr Sanban pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mr Fitzpatrick.

At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Keys said Mr Sanban snapped after being subjected “to verbal abuse and a high level of provocation” from Mr Fitzpatrick.

“Grave insults were uttered by Mr Fitzpatrick to you, but that doesn’t justify raising a knife and striking Mr Fitzpatrick on the wrist.”

Judge Keys said a tirade of abuse had passed between Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Sanban, including Mr Fitzpatrick telling his Thai colleague “that his mother was a lap dancer”.

Judge Keys noted that, in the run-up to the knife assault, Mr Fitzpatrick did shove an order docket into Mr Sanban’s face.

“However, Mr Sanban, your reaction and conduct which followed was entirely disproportionate and cannot be justified,” he said.

In a victim impact statement delivered at a previous court hearing, Mr Fitzpatrick said he forgives his attacker but “he brought the profession to a point so low that he attacked another with the very tools that define our career”.

Speaking through a court-appointed interpreter after the case yesterday, Mr Sanban said he was “very happy” with the suspended sentence and now wants to get on his life.


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