Court hears how rider was punched repeatedly after asking why drive had forced him onto pavement

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."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.