Published: 14:40, 09 November 2018
| Updated: 14:41, 09 November 2018
A Bafta nominated actor has claimed he had no intention of giving the impression staff would be shot when a fake handgun was produced in two bars.
John McEnery said he was “emotionally disturbed” at a pub barmaid breaking down while giving evidence and felt “not good” about another barmaid being alarmed at a wine bar.
The 75-year-old ex-husband of Dynasty star Stephanie Beacham told a jury his marriage broke down some time ago and he had two children.
He said he had a career as an actor, mostly in classical theatre. He supposed his most famous role was Mercutio in Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie Romeo and Juliet, for which he was nominated for a Bafta.
Asked by his barrister Pippa Woodrow to “give us a line”, he recited: “A plague on both your houses! I am sped.”
McEnery, 75, said he had not acted for four or five years, his last performance being at London’s Young Vic.
“I am an alcoholic in recovery,” he declared. “It has plagued my career. I am in recovery and getting better. It has been a struggle, but I am doing OK.”
McEnery, of Marine Parade, Sheerness, is on trial accused of two offences of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
He is alleged to have terrified a barmaid at the Leading Light Wetherspoons pub in Faversham and committed a similar offence with friend Steven Majewski at binElla Wine and Champagne Bar in the town.
Both Mcenery and Majewski, 42, of Canal Road, Strood, deny the charges.
Maidstone Crown Court heard pub barmaid Melissa Green screamed for help when she saw McEnery had the gun, which turned out to be a water pistol.
He was said to have been a regular at the bar in Preston Street and had become “somewhat interested” in Miss Green, asking her when she would next be working.
McEnery went into the bar at 8.20am on August 8 last year. Miss Green told him to leave as he was barred. He asked for her phone number and she refused.
She saw that he had a gun in his hand and screamed for help.
Colleague Sebastian Goodwin heard her screams and shouts. Still holding the gun, McEnery told him: “It’s just a water pistol.” He then cycled off.
The police were called and an armed response unit went to a “pirate” boat, where McEnery and Majewski were staying. McEnery was arrested.
It was later revealed there had been an incident at binElla at Standard Quay involving McEnery and Majewski.
Prosecutor Mary Jacobson said the wine bar had closed early at 10pm some time between July 1 and August 8 last year, and owner Janis Osborn was there with her partner Christopher Baldock and employee Miranda Spendiff, who was cashing up.
McEnery and Majewski entered. Both were drunk. Told they would not be served, McEnery said: “That’s no way to treat a couple of alcoholics.”
McEnery was then alleged to have said: “If we threaten to shoot you, will you serve us a drink?” After Majewski produced the gun, McEnery said: “We have got you worried now.”
Majewski said: “Only joking.” They then left.
McEnery said in evidence he believed his memory had always been slightly impaired by him running into a wall at a swimming pool when he was nine. “It is not a problem learning lines,” he added.
He said he had relapsed into drinking for a couple of months last year, having become homeless and depending on only his state pension.
He was invited to stay on Finbarr O’Brien’s pirate galleon on the creek.
McEnery said he would go to the Wetherspoons pub because the menu was reasonably priced. He had met Miss Green about 10 days before August 8.
“I was impressed with her,” he told the jury of 10 women and two men. “She was a beautiful young woman – a delight and gracious and very diligent in her work.
“She put me in mind of a young Katharine Hepburn. I said: ‘Katharine Hepburn, eat your heart out’, but she didn’t know what I was talking about.”
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC told him: “Ah, the young today.”
McEnery said Miss Green told him she wanted to study event technology, and he asked for her phone number as he thought he could help her by putting her in touch with Mr O’Brien, who had experience of it.
Asked if he had any reason to want to cause the barmaid any harm, he replied: “None whatsoever.”
“I thought I would have a little prank with it and do a spoof ‘Your money or your life’ and squirt water at him...” John McEnery
On August 8, he cycled into the town to collect some water for the boat. He said he became aware he had the water pistol in his jacket pocket.
"Mr Majewski advised me it was not a good idea to reveal such a gun but I ignored his advice foolishly and took it with me,” he said.
He had it at the back of his mind to play a trick on a friend with a CD and record shop opposite the pub.
“I thought I would have a little prank with it and do a spoof ‘Your money or your life’ and squirt water at him,” he continued.
McEnery said he saw Miss Green enter the pub and reached into his jacket for a pen to write down her phone number to arrange a meeting with Mr O’Brien.
“I was looking for a pen and the gun was in the way, so I took it out,” he said. “I had no pen.
“I always thought it was when I got to the counter I took it out but, plainly, from the CCTV I took it out beforehand, which implies malicious intent.
“At some point the cartridge came out halfway. I clipped it back in and thought I put it back in my pocket, but from CCTV I plainly didn’t and carried it back into the street with me.
“I didn’t have time to tell her. She had gone immediately.”
McEnery said he believed he told Mr Goodwin three times: “It’s alright, it is only a water pistol.”
“I said it to reassure him there was no genuine violence going to be happening.”
Asked about the effect on Miss Green, who wept while giving evidence, he said: “I was quite emotionally disturbed by her breakdown yesterday. I felt very guilty about it.”
He agreed he had offered to plead guilty to a lesser charge of having an imitation firearm, but it had not been accepted by the prosecution.
Miss Woodrow asked: “The offence you are charged with is causing Melissa Green to believe she was going to be shot. Is that what you were doing?”
McEnery replied: “No.”
McEnery said his recollection of the binElla incident was “very hazy because I was considerably intoxicated”.
“I remember being in there and it seemed no longer than 30 seconds,” he said. “I genuinely don’t remember who had this water pistol – just going into the environment of binElla, which is a little bigger than a garage.
“It is covered in fairy lights and a little incongruous. I have feint images of where we were. I recall being refused a drink. I was surprised because it was around 10pm and normally pubs don’t close until 10.30 or 11.
“I didn’t deliberately show it to her. The gun was already out..." John McEnery
“I was surprised and taken aback they refused us. I said if I did it, it was a parody or pastiche from the Italian Mafia. I am doing my best to rationalise it, but I don’t remember accurately.”
Asked if he said about shooting people, would it have been to make them think they would be shot, he answered: “No, I said it jokingly. I may have said it.”
Asked how he felt about Miss Spendiff being alarmed by what happened, he said: “Not good.”
Miss Woodrow asked: “At any time have you deliberately tried to make somebody fear you are going to shoot them?”
McEnery replied: “Never.”
Questioned by prosecutor Mary Jacobson, he said he could understand the interpretation of having the gun in the pub, but it was not his intention to cause fear.
“I don’t know why I didn’t put it back in my pocket,” he said.
McEnery said he did not know he was barred from the pub and did not recall Miss Green saying he was banned.
“As soon as she saw it (the gun), she screamed very loudly and ran,” he said. “I had no further chance to make any further communication with her.
“I didn’t deliberately show it to her. The gun was already out. I wasn’t put out that she had refused to give me her phone number. I was slightly put out she asked me to leave.”
Asked if he thought holding a realistic imitation firearm while having a conversation with her was a good idea, he said: “It was thoughtless and stupid of me.”
He denied wanting Miss Green to believe it was a real gun and he would shoot her.
McEnery said he felt “slightly disappointed”, but not resentful, that he and Majewski were refused drinks in binElla.
“I was determined to have a drink, but we left immediately,” he said. “We didn’t press them.”
He admitted he possibly felt resentment more acutely when being refused a drink because he was scornful of the wine bar catering for rich people with Ferraris drinking who were Champagne.
“It was possibly me who made the comment about shooting them,” he said. “I don’t remember who had the water pistol. One of us must have. I don’t remember if we even presented it or showed it.”
He agreed it would have been a frightening experience for those in the bar. He also agreed it might have been at the back of his mind to play a prank on them.
McEnery admitted he was drunk when he went into the wine bar, but said he didn’t think he was when he entered Wetherspoons.
The jury has retired to consider a verdict.