Gay couple thank Ben Stokes for 'sticking up' for them as he is cleared of affray

Sophie Williams
Evening Standard
The two men Mr Stokes claimed he was defending have thanked him: PA
The two men Mr Stokes claimed he was defending have thanked him: PA

The two gay men who Ben Stokes claimed he was defending during a street brawl in Bristol have thanked him and apologised for "all the drama".

It comes as the England cricketer was cleared by a jury of affray after the incident on a night out in Bristol.

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The 27-year-old claimed that he had only got involved in the fight in order to protect two gay men from homophobic abuse and unleashed a string of punches to defend himself and his England teammate Alex Hales from being hit with a bottle.

The two men, Kai Barry, 27, and William O'Connor, 21, described the moment the incident took place during an interview with ITV News West Country.

Mr Barry said: “I thought he (Stokes) was just a normal guy, someone sticking up for someone who was weaker than he was, which was quite nice.

“When I realised who he was, I thought ‘fair play’, because obviously he’s put his career at risk for someone he never knew.

“I’d say thank you definitely, thanks for being there. Sorry about all the drama we landed you in but a lot of appreciation.”

Mr O’Connor added: “He (Stokes) could see the people doing what they were doing, how homophobic they were and how nasty they came across.

“We are really thankful for what he has done because Kai could have been left with a scar.”

It is not clear when the interview took place.

Not guilty of affray: England cricketer Ben Stokes (PA)
Not guilty of affray: England cricketer Ben Stokes (PA)

Today at Bristol Crown Court, a jury found Mr Stokes not guilty of affray after two-and-a-half hours of deliberations, and also acquitted co-defendant Ryan Ali, 28, of the same charge.

Mr Stokes bowed his head and rested it against the front of the dock, before looking up to the ceiling in relief.

The cricketer insisted from the start of the criminal case that he would be exonerated over the incident, in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol at 2.30am on September 25 last year.

Also on trial: Ryan Ali (PA)
Also on trial: Ryan Ali (PA)

He had been out with England teammates celebrating a one-day international win over the West Indies when he and Mr Hales were denied re-entry to Mbargo.

Mr Stokes, whose sparkling England career had been put in peril by the allegations, was accused of verbally abusing a bouncer and then mocking two flamboyant gay men.

However, the cricketer insisted he had not been abusing anyone, and had in fact been joking with the gay men over his gold-trimmed £700 white leather shoes.

He told the court how violence flared up as he walked away from the club, as he overheard Mr Ali and his friend Ryan Hale using "nasty homophobic words" towards the gay men.

Stokes said he stepped in to defend them, finding himself in a tussle with Mr Ali on the ground.

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