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Man gets nine years for car-park golf club attack; Horrified Waitrose shoppers called 999 as soldier was assaulted.

Byline: Lisa Jones

ONE minute customers were shopping for their groceries at an upmarket store and the next they were trying to help save a soldier who had been hit over the head with a golf club in a revenge attack.

The man wielding the club at the Waitrose store in Barry was yesterday given a nine-year jail sentence.

The judge at Cardiff Crown Court said it was a miracle the serviceman Damien Owen, who is soon to be deployed to Afghanistan, had not suffered brain damage when his skull was shattered in the attack.

Ceri Stokes, 26, admitted causing him grievous bodily harm with intent because of the history between his sister and Mr Owen, 25.

His lawyer said the "red mist" had came down that day when the two saw each other outside Waitrose and Stokes, of nearby Court Road, thought his sister's ex was goading him.

Prosecutor John Lloyd said when the soldier heard Stokes tell him "I'm going to rip your head off", he told his young brother who was with him to run.

Stokes followed in his car and Mr Owen jumped over Waitrose's railings when it mounted the pavement behind him.

Mr Lloyd said: "He was running across the store car-park when a car cut across him and the defendant got out and took a golf club from the boot.

"As shoppers watched, he chased the victim and hit him over the head with what one witness said was a "double handed grip as if he was trying to knock his head off".

"Another said he had hit him as hard as he could. When he fell to ground, hunched up, he was kicked."

The horrified customers called 999, then attempted to stop the bleeding and tried to keep him conscious as Stokes fled, leaving him lying there.

At the University Hospital of Wales, Mr Owen was given an emergency operation, within the hour, for a compound, depressed skull fracture.

During that operation, doctors discovered fragments of skull had broken away and a "bore hole" had to be drilled to remove them before they punctured the membrane of the brain.

Defence barrister Marion Lewis said it was Stokes' mother whom Mr Owen phoned for a lift from the hospital four days later and they were still in touch. He had since made a full recovery and is due to be sent to Afghanistan.

He also refused to co-operate with the prosecution but it was pursued in the public interest.

Ms Lewis said: "It was an ugly incident and innocent people going about their daily business were frightened and distressed and Ceri Stokes feels remorse for what he did to them, to the victim and to his own family.

"He realised straight away what he had done and eventually gave himself up to the police."

Judge Stephen Hopkins QC ordered six of the nine years should be custodial with the remaining three being an extended licence period to protect the public from a man whose previous convictions for violence include the racially aggravated assault of a taxi driver.

He said the relationship between Stokes' sister and the victim had been volatile and this had been revenge.

"You hit him with what must have been a massive blow to the back of his head in broad daylight in a public place, causing great alarm," he told Stokes.

"It is miraculous his brain was not damaged."

CAPTION(S):

Ceri Stokes, lef t, has been jailed af ter attacking serviceman Damien Owen at the Waitrose store in Barry
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 6, 2009
Words:590
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