Ex-boxer David Haye grabbed an audience member by the throat and threatened to kill him at a comedy show in London, a court heard.
The former world heavyweight champion, 41, is accused of assaulting the man at the Hammersmith Apollo in October last year. Nickesh Jhala told Westminster Magistrates’ Court Haye “grabbed him round the throat” and said “Say one more word and I will kill you” on October 30 last year.
Haye, who is staying at a hotel in south London during the trial, denies assault. The court heard Haye admits approaching Mr Jhala after hearing the man’s cousin using “provocative language about his boxing past” which was “trying to get a rise out of him”.
Haye said he approached Mr Jhala after hearing a reference to his girlfriend being attracted to black men. He claims he only put his hand on the man’s shoulder and denies making any threats to kill saying he only threatened to have him thrown out.
Mr Jhala told the court he was at the theatre to see comedian Paul Chowdhry with his partner and cousin on the night of the alleged incident. The court heard the group were moved forward to better seats by a member of staff during the interval, and were sat in the row behind Haye and his girlfriend.
Prosecutor Jonathan Bryan said: “For reasons not entirely clear, Mr Haye got out his seat and climbed or stepped over the back of it – he’s quite a tall man and able to step over the seat – across the aisle and approached Mr Jhala.
"He believed people sitting behind him had made derogatory remarks about himself and his girlfriend who was sitting next to him. We said what Mr Haye did was put his hand around Mr Jhala’s throat and threaten him saying words to the effect of ‘If Mr Jhala said anything Mr Haye would kill him’. Mr Haye doesn't accept that version of events.
“Mr Jhala wasn’t injured by the incident but I’m sure he will tell you when he comes to give evidence he was shaken by what happened. Mr Haye returned to his seat. The whole incident lasted just seconds. It appears security staff were aware of what happened but nothing seems to have been done about it.”
Mr Jhala told the court the alleged assault left him “shaking” throughout the second half of the performance and “traumatised”. He said: “He spoke in my ear, puts his hand round my throat, He said ‘Say one more word and I’m going to kill you’.
“I felt threatened, I was shaking. I said ‘I didn’t say anything what are you talking about?’ He said ‘Say one more word and I will kill you’. Then he just went and returned to his seat.”
James Scobie KC, defending Haye, said Mr Jhala’s cousin had approached Haye for a photograph before the incident and felt “slighted and disrepected” when Haye declined. Mr Scobie said Haye was “minding his own business, having a drink and a conversation with his girlfriend.”
He said: “As [your cousin] recognised him he came forward and perfectly politely asked David Haye if he could have a photograph of him. David Haye effectively disrespected him, would you agree with that?”
Mr Jhala said: “No, we didn’t talk about that.”
Mr Scobie then told the court Mr Jhala’s cousin made comments about Haye’s boxing career. He said: “He referred to Amir Khan and said if it was Amir Khan he would have given him a photograph.”
The alleged victim replied: “It wasn’t said.”
“Your cousin also referred to Tony Bellew loudly, as in referring to his name, so that he could hear,” Mr Scobie continued.
“Digs were being made by your cousin about the likes of Bellew and Amir Khan and him injuring his toe in a fight, that sort of thing, using an old-fashioned expression – poking him up. Trying to get a rise out of him.”
Mr Jhala admitted his cousin had mentioned the fellow heavyweight boxer but it was after the alleged incident.
Mr Scobie said Haye had gone up to Mr Jhala when Mr Jhala’s cousin said the pair “did not have a chance” with Haye’s girlfriend.
Mr Jhala is said to have replied: “She must love the brothers”, with Scobie adding: “The brothers I suggest is a way of describing him as being black”.
Mr Jhala replied: “Not true.”
Mr Jhala reported the incident to police several days later, the court heard. Officers tried to arrange an interview with Haye but he was out of the country at the time.
Officers then had to make an arrest warrant application at the Magistrates’ court before they ran out of time to charge him, the court heard. Haye was arrested as he stepped off a plane at Heathrow airport in June this year, it was said, and charged the next day.
He has never been interviewed in respect of the charge.
The trial continues.
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