Woman cleared of funeral wake fight over East Budleigh dog mess dispute

A funeral wake turned bar brawl when the wife of a former East Budleigh Parish Council chairman hit out at a pub-goer in a long-standing row over dog mess, a court heard. 

Tracy White, 54, of Budleigh Hill, East Budleigh, pleaded not guilty to assault by beating and claimed she had been acting in self-defence, accepting she pushed Anthony Venning in the Sir Walter Raleigh pub in March 2019.

Magistrates sitting at Exeter dismissed the case because of inconsistencies and differing accounts given in evidence from several witnesses, saying they could find no case to answer.

The court heard how White had been at a funeral wake at the pub with her husband, Jon.

Magistrates heard how there was ‘no love lost’ between Mr Venning and the Whites, from when Jon White was chairman of East Budleigh Parish Council.

A decision in 2017 to fence off East Budleigh’s recreation ground to keep dogs out split the village, with Mr White and Mr Venning on opposing sides.

When it was decided to trial unrestricted access for dogs in 2018, Mr White announced his resignation from the parish council.

The court was told how police issued Mr Venning with a Community Resolution Order because of his behaviour towards Mr White.

Mr Venning said ‘the police gave me a rocket’, adding he and Mr White put all ill feeling and disagreement behind them 18 months ago.

The prosecution said that on March 12, 2019, Tracy White had been in the pub with her husband for several hours.

It was alleged she attacked Mr Venning as she walked past his table on her return from the toilet.

In police interview, White said there were previous tensions with Mr Venning and at the pub he ‘smirked’ at her and she took offence.

Mr Venning told the court he heard a door bang and the f-word.

He said White approached him with a ‘determined demeanour’, looked him in the eye, called him a ‘f*****g s**t’ and hit him on the head.

Mr Venning said: “I didn’t know what this was about. I was rather bewildered. I stayed in my seat.

“I said, ‘What the hell do you think you are doing?’ Without a word she punched me in the face.

“I felt the bang on the head. When I turned around, she was standing behind my chair.

“It felt like knuckles. I could still feel it the next day. It must have hurt her hand rather.”

He added: “I twisted around and she gave me a wallop just below the eye.

“The next thing I knew, she was hitting me again over the back of the head and launched into a tirade in which she suggested I had done something to her husband.

“The words ‘’f*****g s**t’ came up.”

Mr Venning said White struck him six or seven times and bar staff removed her from the pub.

He said he reported the matter to police but did not seek medical help or photograph his injuries.

Witness Stephen Pearce, who lives in the village, told magistrates he heard Mr Venning call White ‘you stupid drunk woman’ several times and saw her strike him across the back of the head.

“I didn’t think she was drunk,” he said.

“People that are really drunk can’t walk and she was absolutely fine.”

Pub witness David Tutcher, who was a member of Budleigh Salterton Probus Club with Mr Venning, said he saw White strike with an open hand, but thought it a ‘playful gesture’.

He told the court: “The situation kicked off when I noticed that Mrs White was whispering ‘you buffoon’ in Tony’s ear.

“I recall she clipped his ear. I thought they knew one another. It was friendly, I thought. I assumed it was a way of saying ‘bye’.

“A few minutes later it began to get more serious and it was a proper slap on his face.  It caught his ear.”

He added: “It caught us all by surprise. It wasn’t a serious blow. I thought it was a playful gesture.”

John Tresidder, who served with Anthony Venning on East Budleigh Community Shop’s committee, told the court he heard White say ‘you are the most evil man’.

He said Mr Venning seemed ‘paralysed in shock’ by White’s actions, recalling he saw her ‘rain blows’ on his back.

Mr Tresidder told the court he witnessed White hit between 10 and 12 times on the back of Mr Venning’s head and shoulders.

She was staggering and her speech was ‘slurred and unintelligible’, he said.

Mr Tressider told the court White was swaying, prompting the bar staff, and his own son, to take her arms, and Mr White to rise from his seat and say ‘take your hands off my wife, Tressider’.

“It wasn’t restraint, it was to help her to stand,” Mr Tressider said.

White accepted she called Mr Venning a ‘ buffoon and a very nasty man’.

She accepted she pushed him in self-defence but it was not a sustained attack and she did not smack him.

White’s solicitor James Rickard said she has no previous convictions and at the end of the Crown’s case he argued the prosecution was tenuous and full of inconsistencies from the witnesses.

Magistrates agreed and dismissed the case against White, telling the court: “We have found there are too many different versions of the incident which makes it tenuous and inconsistent.

“Therefore, we don’t find a case to answer.”

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