The former vice-chair of Tottenham Hotspur broke a fellow shopper’s nose in Harrods after a row over two croissants, a court was told today.
David Buchler, who ran Spurs in the early ‘90s and oversaw Sir Alan Sugar’s takeover of the north London club, is accused of punching a shopper after getting into a dispute with his wife at the till.
The spat, on New Year's Eve, kicked off after Mr Buchler pushed to the front of the queue to pay for two croissants in the top store's food hall, the court heard.
Mr Buchler, 54, claims that either James Birrane or his wife Rosaria, called him a “dirty Jew”.
But Isleworth Crown Court heard that he pushed to the front of the queue and when Mrs Birrane remonstrated, he told her to “f*** off” before punching her husband who stepped in.
Mr Buchler, who was celebrating his birthday on the same day, then struck Mr Birrane with a “single punch that destroyed his life”, the jury heard.
Mr Buchler said he cannot recall exactly who called him a “dirty Jew”, but maintains that someone did.
Giving evidence on Monday, Mrs Birrane denied using racist language insisting, “my husband is Jewish: his father is Irish. His mother is a Jew”.
She said that Mr Buchler was being rude to the woman behind the till, saying: “I’ve only got two f*****g croissants and I’m in a f*****g hurry. Get on with it”.
Prosecutor Tim Naik said: “The three main parties were all in the food hall at Harrods when Mr Birrane is assaulted at the end of the incident while queueing for items to pay at the till.
“The defendant comes to the front of the counter, and it is the Crown’s contention that he pushed to the front.
“This leads to a confrontation between him and those near him, in particular with Mrs Birrane.
“He told her to f**k off.
"Mr Birrane said he heard that, saw how Mr Buchler was behaving, told him not to talk to his wife like that and moved forward to protect her.
“Mr Birrane said that he was then struck by the defendant to the nose, but he cannot say whether is was a closed fist.
“There’s no dispute that there’s an injury - he was bleeding from the nose.
“There was a little scuffle."
The jury heard that when Mr Buchler was arrested, he told police: “I have never been arrested and I am sorry that I had hurt this man.
“But he came up behind me, I turned around, and he was much bigger than me.”
The jury were shown a video, in which Mr Buchler can be seen in the queue before Mrs Birrane joined.
An argument then began, with both parties wagging fingers at each other before Mr Buchler disappeared from the shot.
Speaking from the witness box, Mr Birrane asked the clerk to help him read the affirmation as he had “double vision because of this incident”.
He said: “She was in the queue and I was back a bit.
“After a while, I thought she finished so I stepped towards her and I was punched, completely unprovoked, out of the blue.
“I felt a crunching smash in my face, but I didn’t see where it came from.”
Mr Birrane told the court that in his statement to the police he was “gabbling like a starling”.
Jonathan Goldberg QC, defending, told the jury that Mr Birrane had been an actor, and had starred in a couple of plays, before asking him: “Are you acting now?”
“No, absolutely not,” Mr Birrane replied.
Mr Goldberg also suggested that Mrs Birrane was the “strong personality in the marriage” and that she had a temper because she was Sicilian.
But Mr Birrane said she had a “normal temper” and “sometimes used the f-word”.
Mr Goldberg also suggested that the couple had concocted the story, and pointed out that in each their statements to police, they had incorrectly said the incident happened at 1.50pm.
Mr Birrane remained silent, and reiterated that he “gabbled” to the police following the alleged attack.
Mrs Birrane told the court that she was “a bit miffed” that Mr Buchler had joined the queue.
She said: “So I said, ‘can you please f**k off’ - actually, I said bugger off.”
Mr Goldberg asked why she had not told police that she had sworn at Buchler, but Mrs Birrane said the officer told her to omit the comment.
It also emerged that she had left a comment on a news article which mentioned Mr Buchler in September. She had written: “He was charged with ABH and will appear in court in November.
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure he is convicted.”
Defending those comments this afternoon, she said: “We want justice for what he did with a single punch and destroyed a man’s life”.
When Mrs Goldberg suggested that she had called Mr Buchler a “dirty Jew”, she said: “I would never say that. My husband is Jewish. Shame on you. I knew you were going to play that card.”
Mr Buchler, of Mayfair, central London, denies one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The hearing continues.