Published: 11:01, 13 April 2014 |
Updated: 08:38, 14 April 2014
A well-known Kent property tycoon with assets worth millions of pounds has been found guilty of attacking an estate agent half his age.
Hefty 65-year-old Fergus Wilson denied clouting slim Daniel Wells, 31, in the side of the head following a dispute about a boiler.
But after a trial lasting almost eight hours, district judge Justin Barron told Wilson he did not believe his version of events and found him guilty of assault by beating - fining him more than £1,500.
Folkestone Magistrates' Court heard 22-stone Wilson stormed into the Folkestone office of agent PLS (Property Lettings and Sales) and shouted: "Right you little sh*t," at Mr Wells before walking to his desk, hitting him in the temple and knocking him off his chair.
Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Wells said: "I turned my chair to the right, at which point he struck me on the left side of my head.
"It felt like a closed fist. Mr Wilson is a large gentleman and maybe not too steady on his feet. He fell towards me and sort of bundled me off my chair and I ended up in the window display.
"Mr Wilson was still trying to grab at me while I was on the floor. I managed to get to my feet and I noticed Mr Wilson had his fist raised ready to punch again. I said to him I didn't think that was a very good idea."
Half an hour before the attack at the Cheriton Place office on Saturday, January 19 last year, Mr Wells had spoken to Wilson on the phone to inform him one of his Ashford tenants had called to complain her boiler was not working.
Mr Wells claimed Wilson had shouted at him over the phone and the estate agent had reported the verbal abuse to his manager.
Wilson, of Long Lane, Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone, later claimed the issue with the boiler had been quickly resolved.
Former school teacher Wilson admitted swearing at Mr Wells but denied hitting him, claiming the agent accidentally fell off his swivel chair.
Wilson, who suffers from diabetes, said: "The long and short of it is I did call him a little sh*t.
"I didn't bundle him out of his chair at all. I went round, probably quite quickly, and he fell out of his chair. He grabbed at my arm.
"I didn't object because I went forward so he could grab it. I then helped him up. I've fallen out of swivel chairs in that office twice.
"Mr Wilson is a large gentleman and maybe not too steady on his feet. He fell towards me and sort of bundled me off my chair and I ended up in the window display..." - victim Daniel Wells
"In the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race this year the cox fell out of his seat. It happens.
"I can't even lift my arms to put my jacket on. I can't bend over to put my socks on or tie my shoe laces."
Mr Wells admitted being smacked by Wilson - who defended himself - did not leave bruising or even hurt and he did not need medical treatment.
Wearing a pale green tweed jacket and bright blue tie, ex-boxer Wilson added: "I'm a big fellow of 22 stone yet you say I didn't cause bruising or a black eye. Do you agree that doesn't sound very likely?
"If I had intended doing him an injury I probably would have kicked him a few times while he was on the floor and I don't think he's suggesting I did.
"I'm right handed, but I'm a natural southpaw (the normal stance for a left-handed boxer) so that's why they (the witnesses) have got it mixed up about which hand I allegedly hit Dan with."
PLS employee Katie Picking, who used to be a friend of Wilson and his wife Judith, was sitting opposite Mr Wells at the time of the attack and told the court she saw Wilson approach the victim's desk with his fists raised.
She said she could not be certain which hand Wilson hit Mr Wells with, nor if it was a punch or an open-palmed blow.
Wilson's wife of 45 years, Judith, drove him to the office that afternoon and claimed to have sat outside in their Land Rover Discovery long enough to see Mr Wells "fall" off his chair.
She told the court: "I quite clearly saw Dan swivel round and tip backwards. I thought: 'Not those stupid chairs again.' I saw my husband reach out his arm. I thought: 'He's got him up, that's ok.'
"I very honestly thought it was funny. I've sat on those chairs and if you twist round or lean back they can tip over.
"When I walked into the shop, no one was shouting or yelling. Katie and I had a general chat, she didn't say anything had happened."
Ex-maths teacher Mr Wilson and wife Judith have built up a property portfolio thought to be worth close to £225 million and made their money through buy-to-let investments.
They own hundreds of homes in the Ashford, Folkestone and Maidstone areas.
Mr and Mrs Wilson previously paid PLS to manage 280 of their properties.
In March 2012, they began taking properties away from the company following a number of issues and in summer 2012 they informed PLS they intended to remove all 280 homes by the end of the year.
Wilson, who represented himself in court, estimated the move cost PLS £25,000 a month - £300,000 annually - and alleged staff had concocted a story about him assaulting Mr Wells as revenge.
But Judge Barron disagreed, saying: "I've reached the conclusion there is nothing Katie Picking and Daniel Wells would gain personally from making this allegation up."
He said Mrs Wilson did not remain outside the office, but "drove off to find a parking place" and therefore did not see what happened.
He added: "I don't believe this was an accidental fall from the chair. I believe you were in a temper and struck him one blow to the side of the head."
Wilson was ordered to pay £1,650, which includes £150 in compensation to Mr Wells.
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