A LETTINGS agent grabbed a tiler by the throat before attacking him with a hammer during a violent confrontation at his offices over an unpaid debt.

Brian Reaney reacted angrily after Sean Lea leant over him at his desk in Ferris Estates to ask for £400 for work to a property.

The 48-year-old businessman grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a window before a fight broke out in which Reaney came off worst.

Mr Lea, who was with his partner Joanne McCarthy, floored Reaney in the scuffle, repeatedly punching him in the face and kicking him in the head.

Despite being covered in blood from a head wound, Mr Reaney, who suffers from diabetes and lung disease, grabbed a hammer and confronted Mr Lea again outside the office.

Reaney, who is being chased by a string of tenants and landlords for unpaid debts, was found guilty of assault and fined £465 at Swindon Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Marion Langford, prosecuting, said: “Mr Reaney grabbed hold of a hammer then pursued Mr Lea out of the shop with the hammer and was swinging the hammer at him.”

She told the court that Reaney had gone “far beyond” the line of self defence.

Mr Lea told the court he had gone to Mr Reaney’s house on the evening of August 13 last year, where the lettings agent had not wanted to speak to him. Reaney sent Mr Lea a text message telling him he wanted to deal the matter of the money in work hours at his offices, not at his family home in Covingham.

Mr Lea and Miss McCarthy went to Ferris Estates in Andover Street two days later on a Monday where he approached Reaney.

Reaney snatched grabbed the contractor, who told the court: “I grabbed him back obviously and proceeded to beat him up, to be honest. He had me by the neck and I grabbed him and we wrestled each other to the floor.”

Despite injuries to his face and head Reaney grabbed a hammer and confronted Mr Lea again after the situation was diffused by Miss McCarthy and staff at the office.

Mr Lea said: “He was swinging it around saying ‘you’re going to get this’. “I said ‘come on give it to me’. He was swinging it down and it shaved my jeans round the knee area. “As soon as he done that I smashed him in the face again.”

Police arrived and arrested both men for affray, but only Reaney was charged.

Reaney told the court he did not owe any money and that the tiler had wielded the hammer in the initial scuffle and made threats against his family during the confrontation.

Martin Guyll-Wiggins, representing Reaney, said the lettings agent had been the victim of a “brutal, animalistic attack”.

He said: “You might think that Mr Lea was the architect and originator of everything that occurred in the office. He came in smoking.He knows this man was not a well man.”

He said Reaney advanced to make his attacker leave and did not swing the hammer or catch his victim with it.

“He was cornered in his office by a man who was prowling like a tiger walking round his prey on the outside of his office,” Mr Guyll-Wiggins said. “This man had no alternative, which is why he did what he did.”

Magistrates found Reaney, of Sussex Square, Walcot, guilty of assault and fined him £150, ordered him to pay £300 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Ferris Estates closed at the start of this year, leaving several tenants and landlords out of pocket.