A MAN accused of attacking a Farnborough man in his home with a sledgehammer was acquitted after a three-day trial at Winchester Crown Court last week.
Lee Cooper, 24, of no fixed abode, was charged with committing aggravated burglary at a flat in Perring Avenue, Farnborough last summer.
The court heard claims that Mr Cooper had been part of a gang of four men who broke into the flat of Stacey Shepherd on September 6 last year.
It was alleged that two men smashed the property up with sledgehammers, while Mr Cooper and an accomplice, Dave McClelland, attacked Miss Shepherd’s boyfriend, Michael Jones, with sledgehammers, injuring her in the process.
McClelland is now in prison after admitting the attack.
The court heard how at about 3.45pm Miss Shepherd and Mr Jones had been in the flat when they heard loud bangs on the front door which was then forced open.
Miss Shepherd and Mr Jones, who had been in the rear bedroom, ran into the hallway to be confronted by four men, one of whom Miss Shepherd claimed to be Lee Cooper.
“I saw four men with sledgehammers,” she told prosecuting barrister, Adam Feast. “They were all stood in a queue and then they came towards us.”
The court then heard how the couple were chased back into the bedroom and attacked by two men, while the other two men smashed furniture in the kitchen, front room and bathroom.
Mr Cooper and McClelland were accused of attacking Mr Jones with sledgehammers and also of hitting Miss Shepherd as she tried to protect her boyfriend.
Miss Shepherd said that she recognised both men because they had visited the flat to see her ex-boyfriend, Neil Neeve, with whom she had split up the previous month.
Showing the court how she claimed the two had swung the hammers from over their heads with both hands she said: “They hit Michael with the sledgehammers repeatedly.”
Miss Shepherd told the court how she begged McClelland to stop and was hit twice as she stood in front of him.
During the three-minute attack neither man spoke.
Meanwhile the two other men, who have never been identified, were vandalising the second floor flat.
As they left, Miss Shepherd claimed one of them said: “Don’t bother talking to the police because you’ll be dead.”
However, Mr Cooper’s defence counsel, Barry Kogan questioned whether the man Miss Shepherd had seen that day and identified as his client at an identification parade on February 24 this year, was the same man.
“However convinced you are that one of the men that came into the flat was Lee Cooper, you are however mistaken,” said Mr Kogan.
“I am not mistaken,” Miss Shepherd said.
“You have carried on with the same mistake ever since,” he continued.
“No,” she protested.
Miss Shepherd’s boyfriend, Michael Jones told the court that he did not see either man’s face as he was being attacked, but identified Mr Cooper as one of the two at the identification parade.
How, Mr Kogan asked, was he able to pick Mr Cooper out if he did not see what either man looked like?
“I just wanted to do my best,” Mr Jones said.
“How on earth without persuasion could you pick out Lee Cooper?” Mr Kogan persisted.
Mr Jones repeated that he wanted to do his best.
“You say on oath that you did not receive any help?” he asked.
“Yes I do,” Mr Jones said.
The court also heard from Miss Shepherd’s neighbour who said that at the time of the attack she had seen her in and hysterical state on her mobile and heard Lee Cooper’s name mentioned.
Before the jury went out to consider its verdict Mr Kogan reminded them: “The burden of proof is on the prosecution. They have to prove that he was present.
“The defence does not have to prove that he was not there.”
Summing up, His Honour Judge Michael Brodrick said the principle issue was one of identification.
“You may all have had experience of thinking that you have recognised a person only to find out that you made a mistake.”
He cautioned the jury that a mistaken witness could still be a convincing one.
The jury of eight men and four women returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty after considering two and a half days of evidence for 15 minutes.