England batsman Alex Hales told police he had not witnessed the Ben Stokes street brawl, despite being filmed kicking a fire brigade worker in the head, a court heard on Wednesday. The Nottinghamshire opener claimed "I feel bad" for "my best friend" Stokes as he told officers on the scene that he had arrived "after you guys turned up".
Footage of the exchange outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year was filmed on PC Stacey Alway's body camera as she tried to usher Hales away from Stokes after the all-rounder had been arrested. When she told Hales to leave, he replied: "I saw him after everything happened." Hales then walked away from the scene and got in a taxi, the jury were told. The previous day, however, jurors had watched footage apparently showing Hales, 29, kicking Ryan Ali three times as he lay in a gutter after the 2am brawl.
Hales is not on trial with Stokes, who is said to have told police he felt "under immediate threat of attack" from Ali and former soldier Ryan Hale, who are charged, as is Stokes, with affray. Stokes said he and Hales were walking "calmly" past the pair towards a casino when they heard "homophobic" abuse aimed by Ali and Hale at Kai Barry and William O'Connor.
Stokes said he shouted: "Leave it out, you shouldn't be taking the p--- because they are gay." Ali responded: "F--- off or I'll bottle you".
However, an off-duty police support officer told the court Stokes was the "main aggressor" in the 2am brawl that left fire brigade worker Ali "completely unable to move". Stokes, on trial with Ali and Hale at Bristol Crown Court, said he drank two pints and five vodka shots in the hours before the fight took place. Stokes said he and Hales decided to walk to a casino and headed down Queens Road, where they passed Barry and O'Connor, who were with Hale and Ali.
"Although I can't remember anything specific, I recall the language being used was homophobic in nature and was being directed at Kai and William by Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali. Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale were taller and broader than Kai and William. I noticed they both had glass bottles in their hands … what Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale were saying was far from harmless banter, it was nasty homophobic abuse."
When Stokes intervened, he said Ali attacked Hales with a bottle, then used it on Barry.
"I decided at this point matters had become too serious to ignore and that I had to intervene to stop Ryan Ali," Stokes told police. "I struck Ryan Ali with my right hand just after he had delivered the blow on Kai and as he came at me with the bottle and had it raised."
Stokes said he and Ali scuffled on the floor, with Hale – also with a bottle – then becoming involved.
"At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others," he claimed. "We knew they were prepared to use weapons that could do serious injury and I feared they could have other weapons with them."
Police body-camera footage of his arrest showed Stokes asking an officer whether cameras had recorded the fight. The third day of the trial earlier heard claims Ali, who was left with a broken eye socket, "seemed to be trying to get away".
Mark Spure, an off-duty police community support officer for Avon and Somerset Police, described Stokes as the "main aggressor". Earlier Det Con Daniel Adams, who led investigations for Avon and Somerset Police, said Barry, who Stokes is alleged to have mocked for being flamboyant, "makes a grab on Ryan Ali around the groin area" before violence flared.
Stokes is accused of punching Hale, 27, to the ground and then allegedly knocking out Ali, 28, a short time later. Stokes, of Stockton Road, Castle Eden, Durham; Ali, of Forest Road, Bristol; and Hale, of Burghill Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, each deny a joint charge of affray.