Olympics bottle thrower found guilty
17:29 11 January 2013
A man who threw a bottle onto the track of the Olympic Stadium as competitors including Usain Bolt lined up for the start of the Olympic 100m men’s final has been found guilty of public disorder.
Ashley Gill-Webb, 34, was suffering a “manic episode” when he used an old ticket to get into the Olympic Park and then the Stadium, where he hurled abuse at Jamaican sprinter Bolt then threw a plastic beer bottle on to the track before the race on August 5 last year.
Today Gill-Webb, from South Milford, near Leeds, was found guilty at Stratford Magistrates’ Court of intending to cause finalists in the 100m race harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or disorderly behaviour, contrary to Section 4 of the Public Order Act as well as an alternative charge contrary to Section 5 of the act.
Gill-Webb, who suffers from bipolar affective disorder, pushed his way to the front of an exclusive seating area at the stadium and started shouting: “Usain, I want you to lose” as well as other comments at the sprinter, the court heard last week.
He then threw the plastic beer bottle as the race, which Bolt won in 9.63 seconds, started.
The 34-year-old was confronted by Dutch judo champion Edith Bosch, then escorted from the Stadium and arrested.
The court heard that he used an old ticket to get into the Olympic Park, and then the Stadium. Police never found a ticket on him.
Gill-Webb was suffering from a manic episode at the time, with an urge to be “involved” in the Olympics, the court heard.
His lawyers argued that his mental state meant he could not have intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress, but the Crown said that, although he was unwell, he knew what he was doing.
The court heard that Gill-Webb pushed his way to the front of the exclusive seating area after getting into the stadium.
Prosecutor Neil King described him mingling with members of the Dutch Olympic team, but his “shouting and jostling”, then throwing the bottle, led to a confrontation with judoka Ms Bosch.
In a statement, she described how he pushed past her to get to the front of the seating, and how he shouted taunts at Bolt for around two minutes.
She saw Gill-Webb move his arm behind his head, then forwards in a throwing motion, then saw the bottle hit the track, she said.
Ms Bosch confronted him, saying “Dude, are you crazy?”
“He was trying to walk away so I pushed him hard to stop him,” she said.
“I was angry with what he had done, which was so disrespectful.”
Other witnesses saw Gill-Webb shouting at finalists including Bolt, fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, and US sprinter Justin Gatlin.
Student Farzin Mirshahi heard him yell: “Believe in Blake, no Usain” while her brother, Kiya Mirshahi, heard: “Usain, no, Justin, you are a druggie, believe in Blake, no Usain, no.”
Gill-Webb’s behaviour in police custody was said to be “somewhat unusual”, and he told officers that he was Scottish actor Alan Cumming, signing a statement with the star’s name.
He originally denied throwing the bottle, but his DNA was later found on it. He later said he could not remember the incident.
Summing up his case, prosecutor Neil King said video footage showed Gill-Webb looking left and right, “shuffling” behind other people, then surreptitiously throwing the bottle, suggesting he knew what he was doing was wrong, and clearly had intent.
But Rhiannon Crimmins, defending, said Gill-Webb was mentally ill at the time and the video just showed a man behaving “oddly”.
Finding Gill-Webb guilty of both charges, District Judge William Ashworth said today: “The video, in my view, clearly shows Mr Gill-Webb checking to see if he is under observation before taking the risk of throwing the bottle.
“I am sure that he was at that point weighing up the chances of being caught.”
He said Gill-Webb’s actions were “rational and wrong” and intended to cause harassment, alarm and distress.
Gill-Webb’s wife, who was in the public gallery, wept as he was convicted of both charges.
The court heard he has two previous convictions of criminal damage.
The case was adjourned until February 4 at Thames Magistrates’ Court for a pre-sentence report to be completed.