Defendant claims he was ambushed in alley

A Leumeah man who fractured the skull of an Illawarra Steelers employee during a violent assault last March never intended to fight his opponent, a court has heard.

Simon Kirpichikov, 28, told Wollongong District Court yesterday that he had been ready to leave the Burelli Street club moments after he complained to staff after being threatened with a knife by Hoai Bao Tran, the owner of the club’s in-house restaurant Steel Wok.

However, just minutes later the two were involved in a fight at the rear of the club, leaving Tran with extensive fractures to his skull.

Kirpichikov pleaded guilty to recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, but denied police accusations Tran’s injuries were caused by him stomping on the Vietnamese man’s head while he lay on the ground.

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

The court heard Tran had been playing the pokies in the club’s smoking section when Kirpichikov allegedly made a racial slur towards him, prompting the Vietnamese man to return to the restaurant’s kitchen and pull out a knife.

Kirpichikov denied making the comment, instead claiming that in response to Tran watching him play the pokies for several minutes he’d said: ‘‘Stop staring at my f---ing machine’’.

Kirpichikov rejected suggestions that he and Tran had agreed to ‘‘go outside and sort it out’’, saying once he’d complained about the knife incident to the on-duty receptionist, Jake Thompson, he and a friend had intended to leave the club and go elsewhere.

However, Kirpichikov said as he went to leave, an Asian man he didn’t recognise poked his head around from an alleyway beside the club and gestured for him to walk towards him, saying ‘‘come, come’’.

Kirpichikov was unable to explain what prompted him to follow the man other than to say he was ‘‘intrigued’’, and did not believe that the man was connected with the early incident.

He claimed the man, later identified as Ngoc Vo, Tran’s business partner, lured him down to the back of the club where Tran lay in wait.

Kirpichikov said he and Mr Vo exchanged punches before Tran attacked him with a metal pole, hitting him on his legs and then on the top of his head.

Kirpichikov told the court he saw a ‘‘big flash’’ and then ‘‘couldn’t really remember [what happened] the rest of the night’’.

When asked what the flash was from, Kirpichikov replied: ‘‘from being hit on top of the head’’.

Prosecutors claim Kirpichikov went on to punch Tran in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head.

Mr Thompson gave evidence that he saw Kirpichikov stomp on Tran’s face, causing the Vietnamese man to black out for ‘‘three to five minutes’’.

When shown unclear CCTV footage of the attack, Kirpichikov agreed it showed him stomping on Tran, but denied he’d connected with his head.

The court was also shown CCTV footage from the nearby Chifley Hotel, which captured Kirpichikov and four other men riding the lift to their respective floors minutes after the attack.

In the footage, Kirpichikov can be seen showing his friends a wound on his leg, before making gestures including kicking, punching and stomping motions.

The Crown yesterday argued Kirpichikov had been re-enacting parts of his earlier fight with Tran, and could clearly be seen making up to five stomping-type motions with his leg.

Kirpichikov said he did not remember the lift ride, while a friend also in the lift at the time, Daniel McCarthy, told the court he did not recall what Kirpichikov had been saying while making the motions.

Presiding judge Andrew Haesler was to make factual findings and sentence Kirpichikov today.

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