It was just before 8pm on the first Sunday in October and Mark James Aldridge had had a gutful in more ways than one.
On the way home to Warilla after a big evening on the drink, Aldridge’s car had given up the ghost outside the Marulan service centre KFC, stranding him, a mate and his wife, and their three children by the side of the road.
Angry and frustrated by his predicament and fueled by a belly full of beer, Aldridge was already on edge when he began walking through the fast food restaurant’s car park in search of help.
It was then he spotted two men looking his way.
In a bid to explain the nonsensical events that unfolded next, Aldridge would later tell police he had taken offence to the way the two men were apparently looking at him and promptly fired off a tirade of abuse at them, which included racially-motivated insults and threats relating to their Indian heritage.
Aldridge then moved closer to the pair, continuing his aggressive behaviour until he got within arm’s reach of one of the men and knocked a coffee cup out of his hand and shoved him in the chest.
The pair began throwing punches at each other.
However, police deemed Aldridge the main aggressor, saying the victim’s actions amounted to “self preservation” in the face of Aldridge’s conduct and the “looming presence” of his friend, who by this stage had arrived at Aldridge’s side ready to take up the fight.
When Aldridge faulted a moment later and lost his footing, his mate immediately stepped in and punched the first victim in the face, then turned on the second victim.
The fight broke up a short time later and all parties went separate ways, however police arrived in time to arrest Aldridge and his friend before they left the scene.
The first victim was taken to hospital for treatment to a bleeding nose and cut lip.
Aldridge later admitted to police he’d had never met either victim before and had launched the attack because they were “staring at him”.
Aldridge pleaded guilty to a charge of affray in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, with his lawyer saying he’d “gotten the wrong end of the stick” when he’d seen the men looking in his direction.
“It’s totally out of character for him,” she said.
Aldridge was fined $400 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, with Magistrate Darryl Pearce saying the attack was entirely unprovoked.