Chef cleared of threatening to stab Smithfield Bell manager in food order row

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Court Reporter

A chef accused of threatening to stab his boss over a row about food orders has been found not guilty.

Mark Alexander, 24, faced a three-hour trial at Welshpool Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after denying the offence at an earlier hearing.

After hearing evidence from Alexander, his former boss and two former colleagues, the magistrates took just 10 minutes to deliver their verdict.

Alexander, of Berriew Street, Welshpool, had been working at the Smithfield Bell for around three months when the alleged incident happened on July 15.

Rhian Jones, prosecuting, told the court heated words were exchanged between Alexander and his manager Chris Birdsell in the restaurant kitchen when Mr Birdsell told the chefs to push through an order for a customer who had previously complained.

Alexander questioned this and was asked to leave the kitchen when another staff member said he became irate.

In their evidence to the court, Mr Birdsell, who had worked at Marston pubs for 32 years and managed the Smithfield Bell for five, and chef of three years Val Jones, said Alexander was told to leave the restaurant to calm down and return the next day.

Alexander grabbed some belongings before leaving through the back door into the restaurant’s yard.

Mr Birdsell and Mrs Jones followed and were standing on the inside of the fly screen door with Alexander on the outside, when he was alleged to have told Mr Birdsell “I’m going to stab you”.

Mr Birdsell said Alexander was holding an eight-inch kitchen knife when he made the threat.

He told the court he pushed Alexander away towards the fence enclosing the yard, restraining him on the floor until he had calmed down.

A member of the public who was near the fence offered to call the police.

Alexander was then alleged to have said “I’m sorry for saying I would stab you”.

Assistant manager Cerys Bevan stayed with Alexander in the yard while their other colleagues went back inside.

Miss Bevan told the court Alexander ran off from the restaurant in the direction of Aldi. Mr Birdsell chased him to the canal bridge, where the police arrived.

Robert Hanratty, defending, suggested Mrs Jones and Ms Bevan were covering for their boss, who he said was responsible for an assault on Alexander rather than the other way around.

In his own evidence, Alexander said he had not been holding a knife and his words were “I hope someone stabs you”.

He said Mr Birdsell grabbed him before slamming him against the floor and punching him and had his foot to his throat while he was on the floor.

“I was scared for my life, my employer had just attacked me,” he said.

The court heard Alexander spent four hours in hospital after the incident and was shocked to later be charged with a Section 4 Public Order offence – using threatening behaviour to cause fear of unlawful violence.

Mr Hanratty questioned why neither Mr Birdsell or any staff member had seen fit to call the police.

Summing up, Mr Hanratty said: “Mr Alexander was on the receiving end.

“It is implausible that the defendant made a threat to stab while holding a knife, and no-one in that establishment thought it appropriate to call the police.”

The magistrates found Alexander not guilty, saying: “We do not believe Mr Birdsell was in any way threatened or that he was in fear of violence.”

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See full story in the County Times

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