Reading security guard accused of killing homeless man with ‘knockout blow’, jury hears

A Marks & Spencer security guard killed a homeless man with a “knockout blow” to his head after chasing him down over a suspicion he had stolen some meat, a jury has heard.

Sabeur Trabelsi is accused of lying to police about the incident, claiming Jason Page fell over because he was drunk. Prosecutors told jurors at Reading crown court that Page, who died the next day from a bleed on the brain, fell after Trabelsi punched him.

The trial opened on Tuesday with jurors being told that Page and an acquaintance had walked into the shop in Reading and “brazenly” stolen about £300 of meat and some beer on 31 March 2020.

They heard that Trabelsi, who is accused of manslaughter, and the store’s manager, Elliot Cripps, pursued the pair. After recovering beer from the suspected accomplice, Oswold Walker, they caught up with Page and, while Trabelsi detained him, Cripps grabbed a bag of meat from him.

Charles Ward-Jackson, prosecuting, said: “The defendants had recovered the stolen goods but that does not appear to have been their intention. What Trabelsi was not entitled to do [as a security guard] was an unlawful and dangerous act.”

As Page got back on his feet, Trabelsi delivered a “knockout blow”, causing him to fall backwards and crash on to the pavement, the prosecution alleged.

The 44-year-old Marks & Spencer guard, who was working his last day at the store, has denied the charge of manslaughter, while both he and Cripps denied perverting the course of justice.

The jury was told Page and Walker were seen on CCTV walking into the shop, with the former having a “noticeable bulge” on his belly – a plastic bag he “whipped out” for Walker to fill with meat. The court heard the pair were in and out in less than a minute, with Walker also taking a box of Birra Moretti as they left.

“In the later part of 2020, the M&S store had suffered a spate of frequent high-value theft by shoplifters. One of the items frequently stolen was meat. You may have seen that they are now being locked up in little containers in stores. As a result, the shop in December 2020 started to hire security,” the prosecutor said.

He told the jurors the difference between a security guard and a police officer was that the former had much less power – only being able to detain somebody under citizen’s arrest until the police arrived, and needing a reasonable excuse to do so.

Security guards, he said, could also use reasonable force to detain somebody and reasonable force in self-defence. But the jury was told this was not what happened on that day. Ward-Jackson said that, instead, Trabelsi punched Page as he got back to his feet after being chased down.

Describing what the prosecution alleges to have happened in the moments after, Ward-Jackson said: “From CCTV, we see Mr Page laying motionless and Mr Trabelsi and Mr Cripps walking away back to M&S. After a couple of seconds they go back and check on him.

“They lean over him. It must have been obvious to them that he had suffered a serious head injury. Having realised that Mr Page was injured Cripps dialled 999.”

However, Cripps and Trabelsi allegedly lied to the phone operator about what had happened and then doubled down on the story when asked by police.

After the incident, the prosecution said Cripps told colleagues Trabelsi had “bitch-slapped” Page and then punched him again. But Cripps told the 999 operator Page simply fell.

Trabelsi, it is alleged, initially told his boss over WhatsApp that Page had tripped backwards and hit his head. The prosecution said he later told a colleague there had been a “tussle” and both he and Page were fighting over the bag. He said he decided to let go and that Page fell backwards from the force.

When he was first arrested, Trabelsi told police: “He lost his balance because he was drunk.” When he was arrested for a second time, officers showed him CCTV of the blow and he admitted it, but claimed it was a “slap” and not a punch.

The trial continues.

Source – Guardian