Anthony Stephens said he didn't know he was wanted in connection with the incident until 17 years later
A former member of the Outlaws motorcycle group raised his hands towards his head and ducked in the witness box as he told a jury of his reaction to a shot outside a Coventry pub.
And Anthony Stephens insisted during his evidence at Warwick Crown Court that it was not him who had fired the shot which left a bullet in the victim’s brain.
Stephens, aged 48, formerly of Cranberry Road, Tile Cross, Birmingham, but who moved Dublin, denies the attempted murder of Darren Smith in October 1996.
Mr Smith was shot in the face in the doorway of the Plough pub in London Road, Coventry, where he was working as a DJ during an all-night lock-in, after Stephens and three members of the Coventry Outlaws had been asked to leave after an argument.
The bullet, said to have been fired by Stephens, entered his nasal passage and went into his brain. Surgeons say it is too dangerous to try to remove it.
The jury has heard that Stephens moved to Ireland shortly after the shooting, and although he had returned to Birmingham on a number of occasions, he was not arrested until November 2013.
The Plough pub: Police search in 1996
Giving evidence, Stephens said he was born and brought up in Birmingham, but now lives and works as a tattooist in Dublin, although he has had to stay in Birmingham while on bail.
Questioned by his barrister Elizabeth Marsh QC, he said he had been a member of the Birmingham Outlaws group for five or six years when he decided in October 1996 to move to Dublin to live with his girlfriend, who is now his wife.
He explained that to leave the Outlaws he had to make a statement to that effect and hand back club property including his ‘patches’ which members wear on their cut-off leather jackets.
So when he went to the Coventry Outlaws clubhouse for someone’s birthday and “a last chance to have a drink with the Coventry lads,” he was wearing a wax jacket and no patches.
Stephens said that by about six in the morning a Coventry Outlaw he knew as Trotter suggested four of them go to the Plough.
He did not know the pub, but he, Trotter and two others he knew as Trigger and Adam, went by taxi to the Plough, stopping on the way for Trotter to get something from his home.
He said he did not recall any altercation between any of the group and the bar staff, and of how they came to leave, he told the jury: “Trotter just said ‘come on, we’re going,’ and we got up and left. I assumed we were going back to the clubhouse.”
The scene of the shooting in 1996.
Asked what happened outside, he said: “It all went mad, I think. One of the lads elbowed a car window. I don’t know why.
“The door of the pub got opened again. I was half way across the car park by then, and I turned to look.
“I heard a glass smashing, and then I heard a bang.”
And as he described that, Stephens gestured that he ducked down and put his hands toward his head.
He said they made their way to the railway station where they got a cab to go back to the Outlaws clubhouse.
Miss Marsh asked him: “Did you have a gun at that time?” Stephens replied: “I didn’t have a gun at any time.”
He was then asked: “Did you shoot anyone?” “No.”
He said he found out what had actually happened some time over the next few days, but did not know he was wanted for the shooting until his arrest at Birmingham Airport when he flew back in November 2013.
But he pointed out he had returned a number of times over the intervening years, at first by ferry, using his driving licence as identification, until he applied for a passport in 2005, after which he travelled by plane almost every time.
Asked if he had any idea he was a wanted man, Stephens responded: “Obviously not. You’d be a bit stupid to keep coming back if you did.” The trial continues.