Footballers in court as 'monkey gestures' fan appeals conviction
A Premier League striker and two former teammates have appeared in court to give evidence against a great-grandfather who was convicted of making monkey gestures at a match.
Middlesbrough fan Ernest Goult, 72, made one-armed gestures under the opposite armpit after seeing his side concede a controversial late equaliser against visiting Blackburn Rovers last November.
As the celebrating Blackburn players moved towards their joyful fans, Goult in a scarf and anorak was caught on CCTV gesticulating.
He is appealing against his conviction for a public order offence, a charge that was racially aggravated, which followed a trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court in July.
The hearing today was before the most senior judge at Teesside Crown Court, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, and two magistrates.
Blackburn players Lee Williamson, who was captain that day, striker Rudy Gestede, who has since joined Premier League Aston Villa, and Markus Olsson were in court.
Mr Williamson, 33, said he noticed the fan as he was walking over to the Blackburn supporters.
"I thought it's pathetic, really, there's no need," he said.
Mr Williamson said Mr Gestede, who had just scored a late goal in which the home keeper was hurt, was upset at the gesture.
"On the day I was captain, I did my best to take control," he said.
"I went over to a steward, to alert him, who basically told me to go away."
The player told his team boss afterwards about the incident.
Mr Williamson said he had seen the gesture "as a kid, growing up".
French forward Rudy Gestede, in a blue suit, white shirt and no tie, recalled asking Mr Williamson about the gesture.
"I am from France, (I thought) maybe it's something that is different," the 6ft 4in player said.
"He says 'No, that's it, it's a monkey gesture'.
"I was shocked to see it in a football stadium."
Mr Olsson said Mr Gestede was usually "a very calm guy" but he got angry that day.
"He only reacts when there is something up," the Swedish footballer said.
The court was played pictures of the furious home fans' reaction after the final whistle, with loud booing, and the images included Goult gesticulating to the away team.
Giles Grant, representing Mr Goult, suggested the one-armed gesture meant "the pits" and was derogatory meaning "crap" or "smelly".
Pc Tim Swales, who has been going to Middlesbrough games for more than 40 years, said he had never heard of that before.
Mr Grant said usually a monkey gesture would be accompanied by facial expressions and an "oo-oo" noise.
He played a brief clip from the 1990s ITV sitcom Watching in which two characters made similar "pits" gestures.
Mr Goult handed himself into police after they released a photograph of a man they wanted to speak to.
The appeal continues this afternoon.
Goult took to the witness box to firmly deny he was a racist.
The retired steel worker said the gesture made meant "under the arm" or "the pits" and was used in the industry to express displeasure, often in a noisy environment.
Goult, from Redcar, said the crowd around him were shouting and upset at the end of the game.
He said: "I felt we had been cheated."
He made the underarm gesture to Mr Gestede and demonstrated it in court.
He said he had never used it at a football match before, denied it was a monkey gesture and said it had no racist meaning.
Mr Grant asked: "Did you have negative or poor views of those footballers because they are black?"
Goult replied: "No definitely not."
He showed the court photos from a post-retirement two week holiday to Kenya he took his family on, featuring snaps of a Masai chief, the driver they gave gifts to and the orphanage they decided to help.
A retired steelworker and one aged 53 gave evidence to confirm to the court the use of "the pits" one-armed gesture, meaning something was rubbish.
Paul Reason said it was less common now but still used.