Wollongong fight follows race slur: court

A racial taunt led to a fight between two men outside the Illawarra Steelers Club that left one with extensive fractures to his skull, a court has heard.

Simon Kirpichikov pleaded guilty in Wollongong District Court to a single charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm after admitting he got into a fight with Hoai Bao Tran in a laneway beside the club in the early hours of March 11 last year.

Mr Tran’s injuries included two major skull fractures stretching across his head.

However, exactly how Mr Tran sustained those injuries is in dispute, with defence lawyers yesterday saying Kirpichikov denied accusations that he had fractured Mr Tran’s skull by repeatedly stomping on it while the Vietnamese man lay on the ground.

Kirpichikov’s barrister, Bart Vasic, instead argued Mr Tran received the fractures as a result of hitting his head when he fell to the ground after being punched by Kirpichikov.

The court yesterday heard Kirpichikov was with friends in the club’s smoking area when the group first encountered Mr Tran, who was the co-owner of the club’s in-house restaurant, Steel Wok.

It is alleged Kirpichikov said to Mr Tran: ‘‘F---en Asian, get out of my country’’ while in the smokers’ area, prompting Mr Tran to return to the restaurant kitchen and grab a large knife, which he then waved in Kirpichikov’s direction inside the restaurant.

Kirpichikov denies he said anything to Mr Tran in the smoking area.

Moments after brandishing the knife, Mr Tran was captured on CCTV footage exiting the club through a rear door, this time armed with a metal pole.

He was followed by Steel Wok co-owner Ngoc Vo.

Meantime, Kirpichikov walked to the front doors of the club where he reported the threats to club receptionist Jake Thompson. However he then left the premises and headed towards the laneway, where he met up with Mr Tran, and the pair got into a fight.

During the melee Mr Tran hit Kirpichikov with the metal pole multiple times, before Kirpichikov managed to punch Mr Tran.

Moments later their fight was interrupted by Mr Thompson, who had been alerted  by another male.

Mr Thompson gave evidence in court yesterday that when he tried to separate the two men he felt Mr Tran fall to the ground and heard his head connect with what he believed was the pavement.

He said he turned around  to check on Mr Tran, who ‘‘seemed OK’’ immediately after the fall.

Mr Thompson claimed he then saw Kirpichikov stomp on Mr Tran’s head ‘‘between [his] eye socket and jaw bone’’.

‘‘From what I saw he [Kirpichikov] got one stomp on the left side of Mr Tran’s face,’’ he said.

Kirpichikov was then subdued by one of the club’s security guards who arrived on the scene.

Mr Thompson said Mr Tran lay unconscious on the concrete for ‘‘three to five minutes’’.

Kirpichikov has denied his foot connected with Mr Tran’s head, instead claiming his unconscious state came from hitting his head on the pavement when he fell after being punched by Kirpichikov.

Mr Vo also gave evidence at the hearing, telling the court he had followed Mr Tran out into the laneway with the hope of diffusing the situation and told his friend to let him talk to Kirpichikov in an attempt to smooth things over.

However, the defence claimed Mr Vo lured Kirpichikov into the laneway so Mr Tran could assault him with the metal bar.

Mr Vo also gave evidence that he saw Kirpichikov stomp on Mr Tran ‘‘two or three times’’ during the fight before Mr Thompson arrived on scene.

The hearing, before presiding Judge Andrew Haesler, continues today.

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