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Record-breaking rower was not guilty of assault in access row

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: March 14, 2014

  • ACQUITTED: British rower Jim Shekhdar

  • BodminMagCourt

A MAN who in 2001 became the first rower to complete a solo, unassisted non-stop crossing of the Pacific Ocean was acquitted of assault when he appeared before Bodmin magistrates on Thursday.

Jim Shekhdar, 67, had become embroiled in a confrontation over access to his beach home at Eddystone Café, Tregonhawke, Millbrook, Torpoint, the court was told.

It was alleged that Mr Shekhdar assaulted toolmaker Philip Barwell by beating on August 30 last year after the pair got into an altercation on a gated track at Tregonhawke Cliff above Whitsand Bay in South East Cornwall.

Mr Shekhdar, who has no previous convictions, had pleaded not guilty to the allegation.

Carrie-Ann Rawlings, for the prosecution, told the court that Mr Barwell had been punched in the face and grabbed around the neck by Mr Shekhdar, after Mr Shekhdar became angry because his access to the track leading to his beach home was blocked by a parked vehicle being used by Mr Barwell, who was then transporting flooring on foot to his chalet.

But Mr Shekhdar claimed it was he who was hit first – from behind – as he tried to lock the gate after asking repeatedly asking Mr Barwell to move the truck.

He accepted that he had then swung his arm to defend himself and in doing so may have caught Mr Barwell on the face. Mr Barwell also accepted that he had hit Mr Shekhdar, but said that he had been struck first.

During the trial the court heard from Mr Barwell's son, Tom, who had intervened to try to stop the confrontation between the two men, and also from café worker Summer Henderson, who said that she had called through the window to tell them to stop their behaviour, some of which was taking place in front of Mr Shekhdar's five-year-old daughter.

The magistrates, finding Mr Shekhdar not guilty, said that the accounts of witnesses were at such variance that they could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that he had assaulted Mr Barwell.

They commented that it was "of note" that it was two young people – Tom Barwell and Summer Henderson – who had intervened to stop the incident from escalating and said that they were to be commended for their actions.

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