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Punch thrown at Crystal Palace's eagle mascot Kayla, court told

Crystal Palace's American bald eagle football mascot faced a punch by a rival fan, a court has heard.

Kayla, a 25-year-old bird of prey, was targeted by a Charlton Athletic supporter when violence broke out during a Capital One third-round tie at Selhurst Park on September 23 2015, Croydon Crown Court was told.

Charlton fan Daniel Boylett, 36, of Eltham, south east London, denies attempted criminal damage in the alleged attack on Kayla.

Boylett appeared in the dock alongside Colin Kitto, 49, of Eltham, Andy McConville, 48, of Rochester, Kent, Billy Cowcher, 32, of Greenwich, south east London and Sam Donegan, 25, of Welling, Bexley, in south London, who have been charged with the football violence.

Kayla's handler Chris Belsey had been walking her around the pitch on his forearm when a punch was thrown from the crowd, the jury heard.

Prosecutor Daniel Higgins said: "As he passed the stand he noticed three or four fans were shouting abuse and one of these three or four lent over the barrier and threw a punch directed at Kayla.

"Mr Belsey is unsure if the punch directed at the eagle had landed.

"He pulled Kayla away slightly to keep her from any further attack and then walked away."

Mr Higgins said Kayla "seemed unhurt" but added "due to her delicate bone structure if she had been hit with force, her bones could easily break".

He said there "is no dispute" Boylett threw the punch but questions may surround whether he intended worse to happen.

Boylett, Kitto and McConville each deny two counts of violent disorder.

Cowcher and Donegan each also deny a charge of violent disorder.

The derby game, which Charlton lost 4-1, had turned ugly before a ball had even been kicked.

Mr Higgins told the jury there "was disorder at the match before, during and after" the game.

Police had spotted a "distinct group" of about five or six fans who had met at a pub in Thornton Heath, south London, before the match, according to Mr Higgins.

Kitto, who was constantly on the phone, appeared to be organising this lead group, the court was told.

McConville, who had been standing on a chair at the pub, denied that he was briefing fans about the potential fights.

The first scuffles broke out as police escorted the Charlton supporters to the ground.

Officers stood shoulder to shoulder as the crowd tried to push and break the police cordon to get to the rival fans.

One officer suffered a cut lip after being hit by what he thought was a bottle.

Kitto, McConville, Boylett and Cowcher were "all present at the front of this aggressive and disorderly group which was led by Kitto", according to Mr Higgins.

He said the atmosphere later "changed" when Crystal Palace scored, with bottles, smoke bombs and flares being hurled and people throwing punches, and being spat at and racially abused.

Mr Higgins said Kitto was seen in the crowd, perhaps using hand gestures and words to organise the group.

Police estimate that "100, possibly several hundred" people may have been involved in the trouble.

After the match, Donegan ran at a police cordon wielding a large yellow cone.

He ignored police shouts to stop and was taken down with a baton strike.

The jury was told that during his police interview, he said: "I was just annoyed, obviously. We just got battered. I just picked it up and let my anger out."

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