A SOLDIER who grabbed a young woman by the hair and punched her in the face after she rebuffed his advances walked free from court yesterday.
Sergeant Andrew Thomas McMahon, of Second Royal Tank Regiment, had been out drinking in the Victoria pub with friends before deployment to Afghanistan when he assaulted the 23-year-old woman on April 11.
But after Swindon Magistrates' Court heard how the 30-year-old, who admitted the attack after watching it on CCTV, was a vital part of his unit’s operation in Helmand Province and had an unblemished military record he was spared jail and given a conditional discharge.
The victim, who does not want to be named, suffered bruising to her left eye, a cracked front tooth and had to have a tooth removed because of the assault. She said she was disappointed by the sentence.
“It’s just a slap on the wrist and if I had been a smaller character in myself it could have really messed me up,” she said.
“He said something sleazy to me and then his mate apologised so I thought that was the end of it. The most scary part was when he dragged me across the room by my hair and punched me again.
“I had to have a tooth removed and my face swelled up so much I looked like the Elephant Man. My mum couldn’t recognise me.”
The court heard Sgt McMahon, who was flown back from operations in Afghanistan for the hearing, had approached the victim on the night of the attack at around 12.40am.
Prosecutor Keith Ballinger said: “The complainant says she was standing in front of the bar dancing with a friend when a male came up to her and said something sleazy.
“She said ‘no, no, get away from me’ and the guy in the shirt turned away. Seconds later she felt a pull on her hair, pulling her backwards. She saw a flash of pink as she was punched to the face twice, falling to the floor. The defendant was arrested and interviewed and he remained silent to all questions put to him. However, following this his solicitor provided a prepared statement, which read: ‘I did go to the Victoria Pub with friends and I admit I was drinking’.
“‘I have no memory of the events in the pub. Having watched the CCTV I can confirm I was the man in the pink top and punched her in the face’.
“‘I am shocked and appalled by my actions and I’m so ashamed – it is so out of character. I am deeply apologetic for what I did.’”
Andrew Watts-Jones, defending, said his client had an exemplary 13-year military career, having been on six tours of duty including Iraq and Kosovo, and was a father figure for the 30 troops he was in command of within his regiment.
Chairman of the bench, Martin Cook, said: “You are in court for what is described as a common assault. In this case there’s not much common about it.
“This was a serious offence – a completely unprovoked attack on a female in a public place. In other circumstances than yours the bench would have given serious consideration to asking for reports that could have meant you going to prison.
“However, given your exemplary record and circumstances we have decided to deal with this by imposing a conditional discharge for 18 months.
“Your solicitor and commanding officer have referred to the fact you are looked up to as a father figure by your troops.
“We sincerely hope they do not see this as something they can do as well and you have some work to do to make sure they do not think this is acceptable behaviour.”
McMahon, based at Tidworth Barracks, was also ordered to pay £1,250 in compensation to the victim. He is due to return to Afghanistan on Monday.
THIS MAN HAS DRAGGED THE NAME OF HIS REGIMENT THROUGH THE GUTTER
NO matter how many times I see the CCTV footage or the stills taken from it, the sheer ferocity of this brutal and completely unprovoked attack on my daughter remains utterly shocking.
It almost defies belief that a night out at a friendly, well-managed pub should end in such repellent and violent fashion.
My daughter – 23, slender, 5ft 3ins – was enjoying herself with a friend at The Victoria in Old Town, Swindon when a thug called Andrew Thomas McMahon barged his way into her life in the most ruthless and vicious manner.
McMahon, 30, is a Sergeant in Badger Squadron of 2 Royal Tank Regiment based at the Aliwal Barracks, Tidworth. Unfortunately he happened to be in Swindon on Thursday, April 11.
My daughter was at the bar when McMahon approached her and – as she put it – “tried it on”. He then became “a bit lairy” when she refused his advances. One of McMahon’s friends quickly apologised for his behaviour.
About to put the incident from her mind she suddenly found herself in extreme pain as her head was savagely wrenched back from behind. McMahon, as the CCTV clearly shows, had reappeared and grabbed her violently by the hair at the back of her head.
He then yanked her head down and, towering over her to ensure good leverage, smashed her full in the face with what appears to be as much force as he could muster.
This is a muscular man – no stranger to the Army gym by the look of him. Had it been a boxing match he would have been disqualified.
Not content with his handiwork on a defenceless young woman, McMahon then hauled my daughter by the hair for several feet, dragging her backwards along the floor while she was still dazed from the first punch. You can see in the footage the mixture of sheer horror and disbelief on her face.
Then, as he got her to the end of the bar, he punched her hard in the face again. The whole barbaric incident lasted several seconds before others at the pub, realising what was happening, pulled him away.
I shudder to think what further punishment would have been dished out by this bully had he not been thwarted. In the ensuing melee, McMahon scurried off into the night.
Having watched the CCTV footage several times, I have to say I would feel just as appalled and outraged had the attack been committed on any other woman, not just my daughter.
Having sustained a black eye on one side of the face and a swollen jaw on the other, she was treated at the Great Western Hospital the following day. Three days later the pain in her jaw was so extreme she went to the Carfax Street walk-in health centre. We then managed to secure an emergency appointment at the dentist where she was given antibiotics and later had a tooth removed – the upper right third molar. Detective Constable Sonia Marsh of Wiltshire Police did a thoroughly professional job in tracing McMahon. Her enquiries saw him flown back from Afghanistan.
The concerned and helpful managers of The Vic went out of their way to help police find this man, as well as assisting my distressed daughter immediately after the attack.
Admitting “common assault” McMahon was told yesterday, had he not been a serving soldier he would be facing a possible jail sentence. Our jaws dropped when magistrates’ chair Martin Cook gave him an 18-month conditional discharge – the legal equivalent, in my view – to a slap on the wrist.
Unbelievably, Mr Cook then told McMahon: “We recognise it has been a harrowing experience for you” before wishing him “all the best” in his deployment back in Afghanistan.
Anyone who knows my daughter will recognise her from the CCTV images. She does not wish to be named, however, because she feels she will be forever associated with this attack: she has been stigmatised by it. “Supposing I went for a job interview and they Googled my name – the first thing they would see is this,” is her understandable reaction.
As for Sergeant Andrew McMahon; he is a member of a regiment with a proud, century-long history. I believe he has not only committed a vile assault on a woman who had no chance of defending herself but has dragged the name of the 2 Royal Tank Regiment through the gutter.
- Father of the victim