An amateur RL player has been cleared of attacking and seriously injuring former Wigan Warriors’ star Danny Tickle.
A Liverpool Crown Court jury took just over four hours to clear Stuart Johnson of grievous bodily harm following a re-trial.
Mr Johnson said after the hearing that he was relieved that he had been acquitted, adding: “This has been hanging over me for 18 months and I am pleased with the jury’s decision.”
He had a group of supporters in the public gallery each day of the three-day trial and they said “yes” with delight when the jury returned their verdict.
It had been alleged by the prosecution that Mr Johnson had launched an unprovoked attack on Mr Tickle, who was then playing for Widnes Vikings, causing him to “collapse like a sack of spuds.”
But 29-year-old Mr Johnson, of Grimshaw Court, Golborne, disputed that version of events and vehemently told the court that he had acted in self-defence.
At the first trial a jury could not decide on a verdict.
Mr Johnson explained that he had ended up in Queen’s nightclub in Ashton in the early hours of November 1, 2015 with friends after a match that they had lost and Mr Tickle, also a friend, happened to be in. Later on words were exchanged in the club toilets and he said that Mr Tickle “took a swing” at him but missed.
Both men were asked to leave but Mr Johnson retaliated after Mr Tickle, whom he said was obviously drunk, got him in a headlock.
Some of the incident was caught on CCTV.
Mr Tickle did not give evidence at the court heard that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull after the punch and has no recollection of the incident.
He did not need surgery and and he made “a reasonably good recovery,” said Mr Riding.