Middlesbrough fan made monkey gestures, Blackburn players tell court
Three black Blackburn Rovers players have told a court that a Middlesbrough supporter made monkey gestures towards them after one of them scored a controversial goal.
Lee Williamson, Rudy Gestede and Markus Olsson each told Teesside Magistrates Court how a man in the crowd made the gestures at the end of a match at the Riverside Stadium, in Middlesbrough, on March 29, last year.
A district judge heard how Gestede scored a 94th minute equaliser that deprived the home team of two points and second place in the Championship.
Prosecutor Paul Power said the goal was also contentious because the home fans believed their goalkeeper had been fouled and Gestede was the "pantomime villain".
Mr Power was opening the case against E rnest Goult, 72.
Goult, of Redcar, denies a racially aggravated public order offence and an alternative charge of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Lee Williamson told the court that the incident unfolded after Gestede scored his injury time equaliser for Blackburn and the game finished almost immediately.
The player, who was the Rovers' captain on that evening, said the match ended and he and his team passed Middlesbrough fans on their way to applaud their own supporters.
He said: "On the way to our fans I see a Middlesbrough fan making monkey gestures towards me."
The player then demonstrated a one-armed gesture under his arm pit. He said the man did it four or five times
"I felt upset," Williamson said.
Asked what he felt the gesture meant, he said: "Implying that I'm a monkey."
The player confirmed he took it to be a racist gesture.
Williamson said the supporter also made a "w***** sign" towards him.
Gestede said he saw the man doing the gesture about 10 times.
He said: "He was shouting and doing the gesture."
Gestede said he got angry and went towards the supporter but was told to calm down by a colleague.
Amy Dixon, defending, asked the player whether the gesture could mean "you're the pits, you're rubbish".
Gestede replied: "No".
He agreed with Mr Power that he was the "pantomime villain" after his injury time goal that deprived Middlesbrough of two points.
Olsson told the court: "It was like a monkey gesture and he wasn't trying to hide it.
"He was doing it towards a black person and it was obvious what it meant. I have seen it before.
"It is very offensive. It was clear what he did."
The player said he was not concerned about the w***** gesture. "It's something we see every week," he said.
Pc Christopher Hilton said: "The gesture I saw, I would perceive that to be a racist gesture towards the players."
The officer said Goult contacted police after Cleveland Police released a picture of the man they wanted to talk to.
In interviews read to the court, Goult said in a prepared statement that he was not a racist and the gesture was an established Teesside expression meaning "the pits".
Pc Hilton told the court: "As a football fan and watching football matches, I have never heard of that.
"When I Googled it, nothing came back in relation to a Teesside gesture - the pits."
Another officer, Pc Tim Swales, said that he had been watching Middlesbrough since he was ten and policing football matches for 16 years.
He said he had never seen the gesture used in the way Goult described in his statement.
Goult, who will give evidence later, sat in the court listening to the evidence and watching video footage of some of his gestures.
He is grey haired, with a grey beard and was wearing a black suit, white shirt and a patterned tie.
Great-grandfather Goult said he had been a Middlesbrough fan since 1950.
He said he made a gesture after making eye contact with one of the Blackburn players.
The retired steelworker demonstrated what he did by tapping his armpit twice as he gave evidence.
"Mr Gestede and I, our eyes met," he said. "I raised my left hand and went one-two, one-two."
Goult said what he did was an "old Teesside gesture".
"It means you're under the arm of the pit," he said.
The defendant said: "It was not so much the goal going in.
"Since the goalkeeper had been injured, I got a feeling of ... you know ... I wasn't very happy."
He said: "I just wanted to convey to them what an unsatisfactory point they'd earned."
Mrs Dixon asked Goult whether he intended to express racial hatred.
He replied: "Not at all. The fact the three chaps happened to be black, it didn't register. The whole lot could have come over."
His solicitor asked him if he was racist. He said: "Not in the slightest."