Ex-magistrate accused of racial assault feared raid after ‘chilling threat’

Former Norfolk magistrate Nigel Stringer

Former Norfolk magistrate Nigel Stringer who is on trail with his son. - Credit: Archant

A former Norfolk magistrate said he was subject to a “chillingly serious threat” from a former tenant to visit his home as part of a long-running dispute.

Nigel Stringer, 71, and his son Rowan Stringer, 26, face four charges including racially aggravated assault against ex-tenant Anthony Munatswa.

Both deny all charges.

The pair are alleged to have attacked Mr Munatswa after confronting him with an air rifle, hockey stick and hammer after he turned up at Nigel Stringer's home, Boyland Hall in Morningthorpe, near Long Stratton, in January 2018.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Mr Munatswa had rented a property from Nigel Stringer on Riverside Road in Norwich between 2014 and 2016, and had left some belongings with him after moving out. 

Jurors were told that a county court hearing had instructed Mr Munatswa to pay £820 in unpaid rent, and for Mr Stringer to return his goods, within 14 days.

Boyland Hall in Morningthorpe, home of Nigel Stringer. Mr Stringer has denied launching a racist att

Boyland Hall in Morningthorpe, home of Nigel Stringer. Mr Stringer has denied launching a racist attack against a former tenant. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

But giving evidence Mr Stringer said after that hearing Mr Munatswa had threatened to visit his family home. 

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“He said my family is going to show your family what we do to families like you in my country. The big white man in the big house. You don’t know what I’m capable of,” he said.

He added: “I took that as a chilling serious threat. I had every reason to believe that was a threat that meant Mr Munatswa was going to come to my house. But I had no idea just how bad it was going to be.”

The trial previously heard that Mr Munatswa went to his former landlord's 11-acre property with three friends, to try and retrieve his belongings, which he had claimed were worth £10,000 and included expensive trainers.

Mr Stringer said he had "froze in fear" when he received a phone message from his former tenant, saying he felt "absolute horror" that he was heading to his home.

After seeing car headlights at the property’s gates he said he warned his wife Cindy, daughter Rebecca and Rowan and his girlfriend: “I think we are about to be raided, I think we are in trouble.”

Mr Munatswa climbed a locked gate to enter the grounds and video footage was shown in court of him approaching the house with his arms swinging by his side.

Questioned by his barrister Simon Spence QC, Mr Stringer admitted he had initially threatened Mr Munstswa with an air rifle before picking up a hockey stick while his son armed himself with a hammer.

After a scuffle that left both men on the ground, Mr Stringer admitted he had struck Mr Munatswa with the hockey stick after his son had shouted that he had a weapon in his hand.

Boyland Hall in Morningthorpe, home of Nigel Stringer. Mr Stringer has been accused of a racist atta

Boyland Hall in Morningthorpe, home of Nigel Stringer. Mr Stringer has been accused of a racist attack against a former tenant. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

He said: “As I was looking around unbeknownst to me Mr Munatswa had come back up behind me and as I turned around and looked behind me he had his hand raised with something in it pointing at my head." 

He added: “I shouted at him what’s that weapon and I brought the hockey stick down his left hand side onto his hand.”

Told the prosecution alleges the blow struck Mr Munatswa on the head, he added: “It didn’t hit him on the head. I would not aim at someone’s head, even a man who I believed might have had a gun in his hand.”

Mr Stringer admitted he had directed a racist slur at the other men outside the gate.

“I used it that one and only time as a weapon,” he said.

He added: “I believed if they came through that fence I was going to die. I could not run, I had no strength. I knew Rowan was behind me but I knew he would die by my side if those men had come back through that fence.”

Asked by Mr Spence if he was prejudiced, Mr Stringer said: “There is no hostility in me, there is no racism in me. I hate the word.”

At the start of the current proceedings, the jury was told this was the third time a trial had opened, but he did not go into the reasons why the previous two were halted.

The latest trial continues.