On January 29, 2014, Graeme Finlay, 53, from Meadowside Quay Walk, Glasgow, was sailing alone aboard Thomson Cruises' Thomson Celebration cruise ship in the Canary Islands just off the coast of Lanzarote.
On the fifth night of the cruise, an elderly couple, Ronald Phillips, 69 who walked with a cane during the cruise and his wife June, 67, claimed Finlay has assaulted them in the cruise ship corridor, knocking them to the ground which ultimately left them both unconscious.
Mr Phillips, who walks with assistance of a crutch after recent hip surgery, suffered facial injuries and his wife received two fractured vertebrae during the altercation where the couple said they had been ambused by a stranger.
Graeme Finlay claimed he had acted in self-defence after being attacked by Ron Phillips wielding his crutch. Finlay was removed from Thomson Celebration at the next port and had to make his own way back to Glasgow. He said that he needed three stitches in a wound to his arm allegedly caused by the crutch.
In court, the story from Mr and Mrs Phillips varied from Finlay's version of the events. Mr Phillips told the court, "We had got the lift down to our floor and I was walking with my crutch in one hand and two mugs of hot chocolate in the other,. My wife was in front and was holding the door open for me when I just spotted somebody out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to the left and the next thing I knew, I was coming to the floor with people around me. I was laid on the floor with my bad leg doubled up behind me and my crutch was down at my side. There was blood everywhere and I had a gash on my head."
Mrs. Phillips told the court, "I saw this man punching him and I put my hand on his arm saying ‘stop it, you’re going to kill him’," she said. "I then just felt something go across me and I hit the wall and slipped down and was unconscious."
Mr. Finlay told the court, that he had sat down at dining table and address the two couples sitting here already with "good evening". "I am actually quite a shy person – it is not particularly easy for me when I meet strangers. One of the ladies opposite me said "good evening" back, but the other three didn’t say anything to me, which I thought was a bit awkward. I was handed a menu and realized I was going to be in the situation for the next hour or so. I then spotted a couple I’d met the previous evening . " Finlay said that he excused himself and joined the table with the couple he had met earlier on the cruise.
Finlay then told the court that he went to a cabaret show and played cards in the casino. During the evening he had drunk two pints of lager, three glasses of red wine and around five vodka and Cokes.
He then encountered Mr Phillips carrying two cups of hot chocolate in the elevator. Finlay said that he gave a "bit of a speech" to Mr Phillips about his behavior at dinner. " I said, "Excuse me, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I felt really awkward at the table – it would have been nice if you had said good evening when I said good evening".Finlay claimed Mr. Phillip's response to him was "f*** off".
The argument continued in the corridor where Finlay claimed he was attacked. Finlay said he only swung his arms to defend himself when Mr Phillips threw a cup of cocoa in his face and hit him with the crutch when he demanded an apology. Finlay told the court: "I felt myself being struck by something sharp and I put my arms over my face to defend myself. Finlay added that he swung his arms outwards and felt them connect with Mr. Phillips and said he never touch Mrs. Phillips.
At trial, it took jurors just under an hour to unanimously find Finlay not guilty of both counts.
Mr Finlay, who had military benefits from formerly serving in the Royal Navy said, "I could have lost everything but now I can get on with my life."
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