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Drunken Eastry and Aylesham thugs attack innocent P&O Ferries passengers 'like animals' before Spirit of France docks at Dover

04 March 2014
by Paul Hooper

Three drunken thugs behaved "like animals" when they launched a ferocious attack on an innocent family enjoying a day to France on a P&O ferry.

The terrifying ordeal - involving men from Eastry and Aylesham - happened while the Spirit of France was about to dock in Dover.

A mother was punched in the face and a 14-year-old boy was left with a gashed head in the nightmare melee in March last year - which happened in front of passengers, including a group of American students.

Violence broke out on the Spirit of France ferry

Violence broke out on the Spirit of France ferry

Experienced P&O staff were so frightened that one steward later told police: "I have never seen anything so vicious in 15 years working on the ships."

Now Aylesham yobs Kyle Carruthers, 23, of Newman Road, and 30-year-old Stephen Roberts, of Hyde Place, have been sent to jail today along with Harry Murley, 24, of Woodnesborough Lane, Eastry. The trio admitted assault and affray.

Judge James O'Mahony told the thugs the three had been boozing "when all hell broke loose".

He added: "You are three big strong young men - some of you rugby players - who were extremely drunk. You were responsible for the tension between your group and others on the ferry."

Prosecutor Donna East said the schoolboy - who cannot be named for legal reasons - had gone to Calais with his mother and brothers.

The teenager - who needed hospital treatment for his injuries - said in a statement read to Canterbury Crown Court: "This was supposed to be a nice family day out... but it ended in a day to forget."

Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts

Harry Murley

Harry Murley

Kyle Carruthers

Kyle Carruthers

Ms East said the family, from London, were sitting in a bar area where a group of 10 men were celebrating a birthday.

The group had been spoken to by staff because of their drunken boorish behaviour - which included letting off fire crackers.

One of the mob thought it so funny, he walked up to the back of a crew member and shouted: "Bang!"

The prosecutor said it was then that Carruthers, Roberts and Murley turned on their victims - who had the courage to complain about their behaviour.

As the ship manoeuvred to dock in Dover, the thugs turned on the family - punching, kicking and stamping on their victims.

The attack happened while the P&O ferry was about to dock at Dover

The attack happened while the P&O ferry was about to dock at Dover

Witness Luke Underdown, an assistant steward, later said: "It is the most violent attack I have ever witnessed at such close quarters by so many people on one person.

"It made me feel physically sick and slightly ashamed that I was unable to intervene because I greatly feared for my personal safety throughout the incident.

"Their animalistic behaviour was such that I was unsure how much further it would have gone."

His colleague Lee Robinson said: "I can say that in 15 years of working on the ships, I have never seen anything as vicious as this incident.

"I have seen minor scuffles before but nothing on this scale."

"You are three big strong young men - some of you rugby players - who were extremely drunk. You were responsible for the tension between your group and others on the ferry..." - Judge James O'Mahony

The judge also heard a statement made by assistant customer services boss Dudley Piddington, who has been with P&O for 30 years.

He said the violence "was so extreme, I seriously believed someone could have been killed had it continued".

Mr Piddington added he feared for the safety of his staff because "I have been with the company for 30 years and have never before witnessed such a violent incident in all that time".

The prosecutor told how the schoolboy received several punches to his stomach and his older brother, 24, was punched by Carruthers.

Another brother, also 24, was "rugby-tackled" to the ground by Roberts, a member of a local rugby club.

Ms East added: "While he was on the ground he was punched and kicked by all three defendants as the mother, who was distressed, called for help."

The court heard the incident only stopped when one of the yobs shouted about the schoolboy, saying: "He's done!".

Some of the cowards then tried to escape the vessel from the car deck to avoid waiting police.

Judge James O'Mahony passed sentence

Judge James O'Mahony passed sentence

All three initially denied any involvement, including Carruthers - who claimed he was drinking throughout the crossing from Calais and woke up in a police cell with bruises.

Groundworker Murley, the father of a 21-month old child, said he was now ashamed by his behaviour.

Father-of-two Carruthers said he had now learned the lesson for his "appalling behaviour" and Roberts - whose partner is pregnant - said he regretted this "gross and ugly incident".

Murley and Roberts -who both had previous convictions, were jailed for 30 months. Carruthers was sent to prison for 20 months.

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