A Manchester bus driver who formerly served as a Metropolitan Police officer has been convicted of assaulting a 65-year-old cyclist after repeatedly punching him when the bike rider complained about having been cut up.
The victim, Harry Clare, grandfather of six, told Manchester Magistrates’ Court that he had been forced onto the pavement in the city’s Portland Street by a double decker bus driven by 38-year-old Neil Whittaker-Axon, then working for the bus firm, Finglands.
Whittaker-Axon, who had been working as a bus driver for 18 months had claimed that he acted in self-defence, but three eyewitnesses, including another bus driver from his company, disputed his version of events, reports the Manchester Evening News.
Mr Clare had tried to get the driver’s attention after the initial incident but received a v-sign in reply. He then followed the vehicle to Piccadilly Bus Station.
"I thought the guy might have apologised to me and I followed him there to say what on earth is the problem," he explained.
"His body language said he wasn’t going to shake my hand. I heard the window slam. He reached out and grabbed me by the back of the collar of my clothing. He yanked me to the side of the bus. I felt my head banging against something and something banging against my helmet."
Witness Davina Beresford told magistrates that Whittaker-Axon had been the aggressive party, saying, “He was aiming strikes at his head.”
Fellow bus driver Frederick Marfleet stated: "I couldn't believe it. It’s not something you do is it, hitting people?"
However, Whittaker-Axon claimed to be acting in self-defence. “I was defending myself,” he insisted. “I felt he had committed an offence and I wanted him to be arrested and charged with it."
Convicting him of common assault by beating, magistrates fined Whittaker-Axon £150 and he was also ordered to pay £100 costs plus £175 compensation and a £15 victim surcharge.
He was reportedly spared a custodial sentence after magistrates were told that he had been made homeless after he lost his job with the bus company.
Colin Thompson, the Chairman of the Bench, told Whittaker-Axon: "It’s very sad. You’re not an ordinary person, you’ve been a public servant."
After the hearing, Mr Clare, a retired joiner, commented: "It was a shock to the system and it took me some time to get over it. It was the right verdict."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.