Drunken thugs jailed for 'mindless' attack

PUBLISHED: 16:41 09 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:41 09 March 2017

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court.


Nickie Knowles, from Exmouth, and Richard Ashton, from Exeter, have been jailed for two years after admitting attacking a man and his girlfriend in an unprovoked assault

A pair of drunken thugs have been jailed after they were caught on CCTV kicking a helpless victim to the head and knocking his girlfriend unconscious.

Nickie Knowles, from Exmouth, and Richard Ashton launched their savage attack on Giuseppe Nicotra after his girlfriend accidentally brushed against one of them as they passed in the street.

They chased the couple in South Street, Exeter, and Knowles tackled him to the ground before they fell on him in a frenzied attack in which they punched him before kicking him 38 times.

When his girlfriend Polina Koshcheeva tried to intervene, Knowles punched her in the face, knocking her unconscious onto the roadway.

Mr Nicotra was in Exeter for Miss Koshcheeva’s graduation ceremony at Exeter University in July last year. She was left with bruises which she feared would ruin the photographs on her big day.

The anguish and stress caused by the attacks have led the couple to split up since the incident.

Knowles, aged 26, of Victoria Road, Exmouth, admitted two offences of assault causing actual bodily harm. Ashton, aged 29, of Codrington Street, Exeter, admitted causing actual bodily harm and a second assault by battery on a bystander who tried to intervene.

They were both jailed for two years by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

The Judge told them: “This was drunken, mindless, gratuitous street violence in the centre of Exeter at night. It is the sort of incident which sickens the public and quite simply will not be tolerated.

“You attacked a wholly innocent victim essentially just for the sake of it. He was knocked to the ground and was punched and kicked and stamped on. The CCTV shows you beat him repeatedly.

“He pleaded with you to stop but you did not. It was a vicious and sustained attack and when a member of the public tried to intervene he was punched as well.

“When the girlfriend, who had to witness the attack, went to try to help she was punched by you, Knowles, causing her to fall to the ground and lose consciousness momentarily.

“It is a matter of pure chance that your victims were not much more seriously injured. The victim impact statements show they were terrified and this has had a substantial effect on them.”

Mr Gordon Richings, prosecuting, said the incident started when Mr Nicotra’s girlfriend brushed past one of the men in the street and they demanded that he ‘control his girlfriend’.

The victims tried to escape but Knowles chased them and dragged Mr Nicotra to the ground before Ashton joined the attack.

Knowles was seen in the CCTV kicking and stamping on the victim 18 times. Ashton inflicted 20 kicks and blows to the face, body and head.

Ashton punched a passer by to the face as he tried to stop the attack and Knowles punched Miss Koshcheeva in the face as she stepped in.

Mr Richings said both victims made impact statements.

Mr Nicotra said: “This was a completely unprovoked attack that could have happened to anyone. It wouldn’t have mattered to them even if the people were an elderly couple. It just happened to be me and my girlfriend.

“I was so fearful if I fell unconscious they would have killed me. I was grateful they didn’t have a knife or they would have used it.

“The way they were stamping and kicking me they could easily have killed me if landed on my temple. I had to watch my girlfriend being knocked unconscious. This incident has broken our relationship up.”

Mr Nicotra’s girlfriend suffered headaches, bruising to the left side of her face, cuts and felt deafness in one of her ears.

She was fearful the scars were visible when she attended her graduation ceremony two days later.

She said: “I was scared to even go out for a few days. I was worried they would come after me again.”

Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said both men regret what they did. He said Ashton had gone drinking with Knowles after a plan to see his young daughter, who lives with her mother, fell through.

Knowles was upset because of the recent break-up of a relationship.

Mr Grumbar said: “They got drunk. That is no excuse for the way they behaved. They are embarrassed at what happened and appreciate how lucky they are that they are not facing more serious charges.”

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