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Court hears Maple Ridge man tried to walk away from fight

Cordell Dame, in a wheelchair, leaves court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national who is accused of aggravated assault.  - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Cordell Dame, in a wheelchair, leaves court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national who is accused of aggravated assault.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

A Maple Ridge man tried to walk away from a fight that paralyzed him last May, but was pursued by his attacker and two friends, a court heard on Monday.

Cordell Peter Dame had turned his back on the trio when he was punched in the face, a block away from Shooter’s Pub where he had been celebrating his son Jordan’s 19th birthday with his best friend, Tim Toth.

Trevor Harding, a resident of Tipperary, Ireland, faces one count of aggravated assault in connection with the beating.

George Nestor, a driver and manager with Alouette Taxi, witnessed the scuffle, which took place around 2 a.m. on May 1, 2011.

Both Toth and Dame were regular customers of Nestor, who had arranged to pick the men up at a Husky gas station near the pub to avoid the closing rush.

Nestor spotted his customers walking on Dewdney Trunk Road toward the gas station and also noticed three other men across the street.

The men appeared to be yelling at each other.

As Nestor pulled into the gas station, he lost sight of all five men, but told the court when he parked, he noticed that the group of three men, wearing red soccer jerseys, had crossed the street.

Toth and one of the men were shoving and pushing each other.

“There was some kind of argument going on,” said Nestor.

He honked his horn to get Dame and Toth’s attention.

He testified he heard Toth say: “Let’s go, George is here.”

But as Toth and Dame walked towards the taxi, they were followed by the men.

Nestor told the court he heard Dame say, ‘I’m not here to fight.’

As Dame turned his back, a stocky man he had been arguing with grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and punched him in the face, Nestor testified.

The punch knocked Dame off his feet and he crumpled, face down, in front of Nestor’s taxi.

“I could hear the punch,” said Nestor.

“It was very loud. It was as if he was propelled. He flew.”

A second man punched Toth, who also fell to the ground.

Nestor said he got out of his taxi and yelled at the men. He told the court as he opened the cab door, he saw Dame’s assailant kick him and say, “he won’t fight.”

The men left when Nestor threatened to call police.

Toth stood up after the assault, but Dame lay unconscious near Nestor’s cab. Nestor said when turned Dame over, he was bleeding from the nose and mouth.

Nestor’s recollection of the event, however, was questioned by defence counsel John Cheevers, who suggested Nestor was not telling the truth.

Emergency room physician Dr. Laura Kelly testified Dame arrived at Ridge Meadows Hospital with multiple fractures to his face and skull.

His brain was bruised, bleeding and swollen.

“These were injuries that were consistent with being struck several times,” Kelly told the court.

She was also sure Dame’s injuries were caused by more than one punch, despite repeated cross-questioning by defence.

“It would be impossible to have that severity of injuries with one blow,” she told the court.

In his opening statement, Crown prosecutor Peter Ng said the court will have to decide whether Harding can claim self-defence.

Dame, 52, made a miraculous recovery after being in a coma for more than a month. He attended court in a wheel chair, supported by family and friends.

His sister, Angie Wester, said the family was not yet ready to comment on the trial, as the first day in court was very emotional.

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