'He hit him in the face': Barmaid's explosive testimony at one-punch trial

ON TRIAL: Jack Stevenson walks into Tamworth District Court yesterday morning. Photo: Barry Smith 240614BSA03

ON TRIAL: Jack Stevenson walks into Tamworth District Court yesterday morning. Photo: Barry Smith 240614BSA03

AN EYEWITNESS to an alleged one-punch attack in Tamworth’s CBD has told a trial she saw no pushing or shoving before the alleged offender struck the victim.

Bartender Betty-Lee Hobden said she was yelling at Jack Stevenson to get back in the Courthouse Hotel before he allegedly punched 37-year-old Curtis Ay Shay in the face – the force of the alleged blow, the Crown maintains, knocked Mr Ay Shay to the ground and rendered him unconscious.

“He hit him in the face,” Ms Hobden told Tamworth District Court yesterday.

“He hit him with a closed fist.”

Twenty-year-old Stevenson is fighting one charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm after the alleged hit on November 8 in Peel St last year.

“Had you seen any physical touching?” the Crown prosecutor asked Ms Hobden, referring to Stevenson and Mr Ay Shay.

“No,” she replied.

“In the lead-up to the punch, did Jack say anything?” the Crown asked.

“No,” she replied.

Mr Ay Shay suffered critical injuries and was later airlifted to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and placed on life support after emergency surgery.

The Leader understands Mr Ay Shay is still receiving rehabilitation for his injuries. 

Ms Hobden said before the events outside on the night in question, Stevenson and Mr Ay Shay had been pulling faces at one another inside at the bar.

“Pulling faces, blowing kisses at one another, sticking their tongues out,” she told the court.

Ms Hobden said on her way into the poker machine room earlier in the night, she noticed Stevenson’s friend, Nick, arguing with Mr Ay Shay.

“I didn’t hear what they were arguing about, I just saw them bickering,” she said, before telling the court she told the boys “not to worry about it”.

The court heard Stevenson had purchased Carlton mid-strength schooners on the night, while Mr Ay Shay was halfway through his second Tooheys drink when he was asked to leave with concerns an argument could spiral.

When asked if she saw Mr Ay Shay again, Ms Hobden said she noticed him outside at the side door of the hotel.

“Yes, he was making facial expressions at the boys,” she said.

Defence solicitor Jason Curtis submitted Ms Hobden’s memory was vague on some of the events in question on the night during the cross-examination. 

“You don’t remember the pushing and shoving today,” he asked.

“No,” Ms Hobden replied.

The court was told an incident report from the hotel’s log, signed by Ms Hobden, had stated there was pushing and shoving before the alleged punch, but Ms Hobden said she didn’t write the report.

“You say Mr Stevenson walked straight up to him and hit him in the face,” Mr Curtis asked.

“Yes,” Ms Hobden replied.