'Sectarian abuse' aimed at Lennon

A security director who “jumped on top” of a man accused of attacking Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he heard him shout a sectarian comment.

A security director who “jumped on top” of a man accused of attacking Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he heard him shout a sectarian comment.

Peter Croy, 61, operations director for G4S stewarding and security company, was giving evidence at the trial of John Wilson, 26, who is accused of attacking Lennon at a crucial Hearts v Celtic match at Tynecastle Stadium on May 11.

The attack is alleged to have been religiously aggravated.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court today, Croy, who was standing in the tunnel area, said he had noticed the man climbing over the fence from the stand and believed he was going to try to run on to the pitch.

Croy told the court: “I made my way towards the person and it was only seconds but I realised he was not going on the pitch. He was making his way towards Neil Lennon.

“The person slipped and was lying on front of him (Lennon), and I just jumped on top of him.

“I vaguely remember him making contact with the manager. It looked like he had a hand round the back of his neck.”

Croy said he was lying over the man’s thighs and part of his waist, facing him. He said their faces would have been “about 18-20 inches” apart.

He said: “I restrained him to the ground for a few seconds before police arrived. He shouted something to Neil Lennon. He shouted ’Lennon, ya Fenian b******’.”

Croy was then asked if he could see the man in court and he said yes, pointing to Wilson in the dock.

Wilson’s defence lawyer David Nicolson challenged Croy’s evidence, and asked if what he had actually heard was: “Lennon, ya f****** w*****.”

Croy replied: “No, I’m positive.”

The trial also heard evidence from Brian Winter, 43, who was the fourth official at the fixture, which was attended by a crowd of 16,681 supporters.

He told the court he had seen a man “lunge” for Lennon, but slip in the process.

Winter said: “I saw Alan Thompson make a grab for the man as he was running, and he appeared to put him off balance by grabbing an item of his clothing.

“He was then being restrained on the ground by security. I moved in to pull Neil Lennon away from the situation.

“Mr Lennon had an angry reaction. I intervened and asked him not to get involved and leave it to the police and he accepted that.”

Yesterday Lennon told the court that the alleged attack had been the “tipping point” of a season that saw him threatened by bombs and bullets.

He said: “It took the gloss off the team’s performance and I knew that the headlines would be about me again, rather than the team, and that really disappointed me.”

Wilson denies the charges against him.

Wilson was arrested and taken to St Leonard’s police station in Edinburgh where he was interviewed by Detective Constable Brendan Innes, in the presence of Detective Constable Nicola Brown.

The court was shown a DVD of the police interview in which Wilson admitted drinking “half a bottle of Buckfast and two cans” before the game.

He also said he had been taking strong painkillers because he had broken his ribs playing football.

Detective Constable Innes asked him to tell him what he remembered of the incident at Tynecastle.

Wilson replied: “I have run on to the pitch, I was running at Neil Lennon but I realised what I was doing and as I got closer, I slipped.

“I never really had enough time to do anything. The police officers and Celtic staff were on top of me holding me down.

“I put my hands out straight away because I realised what I’d done. I knew right away that I had done wrong.”

During the interview he told Detective Constable Innes that he did not assault Lennon.

Wilson said: “I never assaulted Neil Lennon. I did not make contact with him. I’m sure I never made contact with him. I ran into Thompson (the Celtic coach) but I never assaulted him either.”

Wilson said he ran on to the pitch to shout at Lennon because of the way Lennon had acted after Celtic’s second goal, shortly into the second half, and claimed he was directing his celebrations at the home fans.

He said: “My intention was not to assault anyone. It was the way he turned around when he was celebrating, making hand gestures or something like that.”

The trial before Sheriff Fiona Reith QC continues.

Closing speeches are expected tomorrow.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox