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FREE AS A BIRD; Sex swap SAS soldier cheats jail term after hammering four police.

AN ex-SAS soldier who calls himself Joanna walked free yesterday after being convicted of assaulting police.

Dressed in an electric blue skirt and lime-green T-shirt, former Gulf War veteran John White immediately announced he would celebrate by buying a new frock.

Earlier, 6ft 2in White had apologised for hurting officers, telling magistrates: "It was a big misunderstanding. It's not in my nature to fight back.

"I thought police knew I was gay and living with a drag queen. I am in the middle of a sex change."

White, 37, then spent the time waiting for a verdict by playing with a cuddly koala.

He made animal noises and wiggled the toy towards police in court. When told by his barrister to keep quiet, he replied: "It wasn't me. It was my koala."

After he was conditionally discharged, he claimed he was forbidden from commenting.

Asked if his koala had any comment, he said: "No, he can't say anything either."

White - who served in the SAS and Special Boat Squadron in a 13-year career - laid into four police after being seen in a pub with a hammer and two screwdrivers.

On Monday, he appeared in court wearing a purple silk dress. Yesterday, he excelled himself.

As well as the skirt and T-shirt, he was dressed in a pink bonnet and jeans jacket bearing badges saying "Barbie" and "One of the girls".

He sported one blue sock and one green. As a final touch the strapping former corporal wore lipstick, eye-shadow and blusher as well as earrings, five bracelets, and a ring on every finger.

Fashion accessories included the fluffy koala, two teddies and a Minnie Mouse umbrella.

In his rumpus in a bar at Maidstone, Kent, the court heard, he hurled four police around like "rag dolls".

Even being sprayed with CS gas and belted with a baton had no effect. It took four officers to restrain him and six to carry him to a police van. Yesterday White, of Heathfield, East Sussex, said he was in Maidstone because "people were after me".

Giving his name as Joanna Stephanie White, he told Maidstone court: "When the police arrived I was completely terrified.

"I thought they were the Special Branch or SAS and were going to take me away and shoot me."

He said the CS gas had little effect on him because he was used to it from training.

White had earlier claimed he found the hammer and screwdrivers in woods outside the town.

But in court he admitted he had bought them. He said: "I was very nervous. I was having a rough time. I'd just left the Army and my marriage was splitting up.

"I'd have gone peacefully if they hadn't tried to put handcuffs on me - I'm not keen on handcuffs. I didn't punch anyone, though."

Prosecutor Sara Haroon told him: "Your strength means that you do not punch anyone, but you were obviously trying to get away."

White replied: "No, I wasn't. They would have got me eventually.

"When the officer hit me with his asp (baton) I thought it was an electric cattle prod.

"If anyone did get injured in the fracas, I apologise."

The former power-lifter , who had denied assault, said if he had attacked the officers they "would have known about it". He said: "No one got a broken jaw.
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Author:Arnold, Harry
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2000
Words:556
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