Businessman cleared of assaulting sister

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM A Norfolk businessman whose 40th birthday celebrations descended into a mass brawl was yesterday cleared of assaulting his sister who was one of the guests at his party, which he described as the "worst birthday of his life".

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM

A Norfolk businessman whose 40th birthday celebrations descended into a mass brawl was yesterday cleared of assaulting his sister who was one of the guests at his party, which he described as the "worst birthday of his life".

Anthony Spurgeon, of Park Farm, Brooke, had been out at a local pub with friends and family last August before returning home for a barbecue.

Norwich Crown Court heard that an argument erupted after his girlfriend accused his niece of having a relationship with him, and this quickly developed into a violent confrontation with various guests becoming embroiled.

The police were called after Spurgeon allegedly hit his sister, Sallyann Rodulfo, who tried to intervene. They had to resort to force to restrain him.

However, he denied hitting his sister and said she was injured when she fell and hit her head on his Range Rover.

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Spurgeon, who runs Frank Spurgeon butchers, denied actual bodily harm against Mrs Rodulfo but admitted common assault on PC Matthew Hobson and PC Phillip Mercer.

A jury took 2½ hours to find Spurgeon not guilty of the assault on his sister. But he will now face returning to court to be sentenced for the assaults on two police officers.

During the trial, the court heard how the gathering was in "good humour" until Spurgeon's girlfriend, Liz Styles, asked Mrs Rodulfo's daughter, Emma Hawkes, if she had had a relationship with him. Ms Hawkes later told the court such a suggestion was "sick".

This led to a confrontation between Spurgeon and Ms Styles and other guests intervened, including Mrs Rodulfo, who claimed Spurgeon had struck her twice and she lost consciousness.

Mrs Rodulfo was still unconscious when police arrived. She suffered severe bruising around her eyes and had other injuries.

In a statement read to the jury, PC Hobson said he had been forced to use CS gas twice as he attempted to arrest Spurgeon. He drew his baton for his own protection and eventually restrained him after Spurgeon lashed out, punching him on his mouth and nose. He and PC Mercer managed to handcuff him.

Giving evidence, Spurgeon agreed he had been "loud and argumentative" that night.

"I was abusive and assaulted the police," he added.

"My behaviour was disgraceful and I am very sorry. But I did not assault my sister."

He described the party as "the worst birthday" of his life as some friends had not turned up. He said his sister fell and hit her head on his Range Rover's bumper.

When the pair's father died in 1985 the business, which has a turnover of £1.2m, was left to Spurgeon. Mrs Rodulfo was not left anything.