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Michael Tovell lied about baseball bat attack in St-Laurence-in-Thanet church

An “attention seeking” cop lied about being severely beaten by a gang at gunpoint.

Michael Tovell held his head in his hands and appeared to sob today after he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

It took the jury just over an hour to return its verdict, for what Judge Simon James called "a very serious crime."

He sent an SOS signal out to his fellow officers
He sent an SOS signal out to his fellow officers

Police suspended the 46-year-old last year after accusing him of arming his tazer and misusing his radio at Ramsgate's St Laurence Church.

Tovell fiercely argued he activated both devices when four men armed with a gun and baseball bats rained blows on his body and head.

But the fly in the ointment is the gang never existed.

It is unclear why the former cop of 15 years invented such an elaborate rouse, prosecutor Ian Hope told the jury.

“They are not assassins who fell out of the air in parachutes to administer some kind of silent justice...” Ian Hope, prosecution

Indeed, a huge police response was launched after Tovell was discovered feigning unconsciousness.

He would maintain four black men in the cover of darkness smashed him over his temples and threatened him with a gun.

But by catching the bat strikes and raising his tazer towards the gun man, Tovell would insist he managed to fight for his life.

“They are not assassins who fell out of the air in parachutes to administer some kind of silent justice,” Mr Hope told the jury.

“Whether he wants or needs attention, whether it is a cry for help, whether he is embittered with the police force, we can’t tell you that.

“But all that he said was the hallmark of Hollywood rather than real life, and it has come from quite the imagination.

He was discharged from the William Harvey hours after the 'attack'
He was discharged from the William Harvey hours after the 'attack'

“He knew he was triggering a significant police enquiry when he pushed that (radio) button.”

Tovell’s barrister, Kevin Baumber, argued the prosecution’s case came without any clear motive.

“It is not for profit or compensation and that is a deal breaker for the prosecution,” he said.

“He didn’t ask for any of the reaction or response, he isn’t basking for attention.

“He isn’t fitting anyone up he has done nothing but say what happened,” he explained.

But the jury found Tovell guilty of perverting the course of Justice, which carries a maximum of life imprisonment, after deliberating for just over an hour.

“This isn’t a theatre - this is a court of law..." Judge Simon James

In a previous hearing Tovell told the jury he happened on the four thugs while searching for a missing person alone at 9.45pm.

They smashed him over the head with metal and wooden baseball bats after brandishing a handgun then fled, he claimed.

"When I was on my knees watching ahead towards the wall I saw them head towards wall," he told the court.

But Tovell's account didn’t tie up with his injuries.

The former constable was rushed to Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital but discharged hours later.

A CT scan and other tests revealed there were no serious injuries.

Tovell told the jury detective Steve Biddiss was ordered to photograph his injuries the next day after his head and hands "ballooned" with swelling.

However, Kent Police maintained it had no record or recollection of taking the snaps.

St Laurence-in-Thanet (11676875)
St Laurence-in-Thanet (11676875)

Tovell was part of a team searching for a vulnerable person, when he suggested scouting the graveyard alone, the court heard.

Shortly afterwards, his radio beamed an emergency SOS across Kent Police requesting back up at about 9.45pm on February 2 last year.

Played to the jury, the SOS recording was Tovell’s voice repeatedly shouting “put that down” before falling silent.

Prosecutor Ian Hope pointed out the absence of background noise, adding four men assaulting a victim would "surely generate sound".

He told the court: "As the radio was activated while you were allegedly being attacked Mr Tovell, surely it would have generated some sound."

Tovell then shouted to the jury: "I thought I was going to die" and appeared to break down in tears.

Mr Hope went on: "Have you done this for the attention? Playing the hero?"

Canterbury Crown Court (12155560)
Canterbury Crown Court (12155560)

Tovell replied "No, I'm not playing the hero."

Under cross examination, Tovell went on to accuse a member of Kent Police sat in the public gallery of failing to solve his grandmother's alleged murder.

It inspired him to want to become a cop and serve the Queen, he insisted.

But Judge Simon James cut him off, saying: “This isn’t a theatre - this is a court of law.

“We are not here to make allegations about other people. We are here to hear allegations made against you.”

Tovell, of Margate Road in Ramsgate, will be sentenced in six weeks time following a psychiatric assessment.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

Read more:All the latest news from Thanet

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