Former Orpington footballer killed Bexley gym-goer in self defence, court hears
PUBLISHED: 13:34 29 August 2019
A former footballer from Orpington has told jurors he fatally stabbed a fellow Bexley gym-goer in self-defence after "belittling" him over his debts and champagne lifestyle.
Charles Riddington, 37, broke down in tears in the witness box at the Old Bailey as he recalled how George Barker, 24, had produced a blade during a "tussle" at the Double K gym in Bexley, south-east London.
He told the court that he stabbed the new father as he attempted to grab the lock knife from his hand.
The violence allegedly erupted after Mr Barker told three "big drug dealers" he was in debt to that Riddington owed him £20,000.
On the morning of November 14 2016, Riddington and the three dealers were at the gym when Mr Barker arrived to train, the court heard.
The defendant denied they were lying in wait to ambush him and said he was chatting with the gym owner about his friendship with TV pundit Jamie Redknapp before Mr Barker turned up.
Riddington told jurors: "I only noticed George was in the gym when he was on the mats.
"I said to him 'All right, money-bags? Who owes this 20 grand then, George?"
"He said 'No, I have not said that.' One of the three men said 'You have, George' and then I said to him 'This is not f****** right, George, what you are doing. You need to pay your bills.'
"I said to him 'I tell you what you need to do, you need to stop going out buying champagne with other people's money.
"'You need to put your money indoors to that baby you have.' I was belittling him, if I'm honest."
Riddington told jurors that Mr Barker responded by punching him in the side of the face.
He went on: "I hit him back. We were trying to exchange punches. We were quite close but nothing was landing.
"We were tussling. During that tussle I hit him again and made him step back. He turned to his side but he was still looking at me. As far as I was concerned he is shaping up again."
Riddington said he closed the gap to get within "striking distance again" when he saw Mr Barker had a large lock knife in his hand.
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He said: "I was so close to him, I had to react. I just grabbed his wrist and pushed his arm upwards."
During the struggle that seemed to go on "forever", Mr Barker began to bleed from a cut to his head, the defendant said.
He said: "When I got the knife off George, he then grabbed my arm because I had hold of his hand but he was trying to get the knife back off me."
Orlando Pownall QC, defending, asking: "Thinking back now, did it cross your mind at the time, 'Right, I have got the knife, that's the end of it, I'm going to leave'?"
Riddington replied: "I wish it was as simple as that. The thought's going through my mind, I was not in control of this knife.
"He punched me in the back of the head and, to be honest with you, it was not my concern, him punching me. I just wanted to get this knife off him."
The defendant told jurors he had stabbed Mr Barker repeatedly to get away but did not feel "in control" of what was happening.
Mr Pownall said: "At the time, do you consider you could have behaved differently?"
Riddington said: "Maybe in a flash of the moment. As far as I was concerned, I was doing what I could to defend myself."
The defendant said he picked up his kit bag "on autopilot" and, as he left the gym, he saw Mr Barker collapse in the doorway.
He told jurors he did not hand himself in to police because he could not explain the argument without implicating the three "big drug dealers" who might react with "some sort of violence".
Instead, he fled to Manchester and then to Dusseldorf in Germany and South Africa.
He said he contacted one of the drug dealers to see if they would tell police what had happened.
The former Millwall youth player told the court: "He said 'This is your problem. Don't implicate any of us. If you do we will see you' - meaning my family."
He refused to name the man he spoke to for fear of him visiting his family, adding: "I'm not outside to protect them."
Riddington, of Orpington, denies murder and possessing a knife.