Punchestown - At The Races

Fence attendant 'totally clear' on details of alleged Stratford conversation, panel in Dunne hearing told

    ‘I’ve reported to you 100 per cent what I recall’.
  • Thursday 02 December 2021
  • News

A fence attendant present during Robbie Dunne’s alleged verbal attack on Bryony Frost following a race at Stratford described the incident as “beyond memorable” and “very aggressive” during day three of a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary hearing.

The hearing, which is being held at High Holborn in London, relates to seven individual charges brought against Dunne for prejudicial conduct and violent and threatening behaviour.

The jockey denies all charges of prejudicial conduct and two of the three of violent and threatening behaviour, with the majority of the incidents in question taking place on racecourses in 2020.

The attendant, who gave evidence via video call but was not named, has worked on British racecourses and point-to-point tracks for 14 years and was present during an alleged altercation at Stratford on July 8 last year, where Dunne is accused of having said: “You’re a f***ing whore, you’re a dangerous c*** and if you ever f***ing murder (cut across) me like that again, I’ll murder you.”

The witness in question told the hearing he recalled Dunne pulling up his mount and then calling Frost “a f***ing slut” and was adamant of the details of the conversation when under cross-examination from Dunne’s legal representative, Roderick Moore.

“To me it was a quite a long sentence that was indistinguishable to begin with, but then the volume was raised and the level of aggression was raised,” he said.

“He spat out those three words that I’ve listed (you f***ing slut).

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind. None at all. My wife heard it the same, when we had a discussion about it in the car on the way home after racing, we were both of a mind that they were exactly the words that he used.

“I’ve reported to you 100 per cent what I recall, what I recalled at the time and what I still recall now. It is totally clear in my mind, there is no ambiguity, none.”

The attendant also referenced the statement of jockey Adam Wedge, who was present at the time and later told BHA investigators the exchange was “nothing out of the ordinary”.

“There were other jockeys within what I would describe as earshot, and it is quite a significant point to me that they’ve not come forward as witnesses,” the panel were told.

“In my mind, they would absolutely have heard the same as I heard, they would have been closer to him than I was.

“What might be ordinary to him (Wedge) might be very different to what is out of the ordinary to a general member of the public.

“That’s between him and his conscience, I know that my conscience is clear. That’s the very reason why I’ve submitted this witness statement, I know what was said, I know the manner in which it was delivered.

“To me, the word ‘bullying’ implies a longer-term thing, but this was a very personal, very aggressive statement that, in my experience on racecourses, is very much out of the ordinary.”

Although the attendant told the panel that swearing is commonplace on racecourses and not an unusual happening for him to witness in his role, he distinguished this alleged event as particularly notable and stated that he would have come forward of his own volition had he been aware of the issues between the two parties.

“We didn’t realise at the time that there was trouble between these two individuals, had it been so then we would have raised it immediately as an issue,” he said.

“This was a standout incident in our experiences on racecourses, it was beyond memorable.”

The panel also heard the evidence of former jockey Hannah Welch, who alleged that Dunne had verbally abused her following a race in November 2018.

Upon her return to the weighing room, Welch told the panel that Dunne had shouted and sworn at her and had continued to do so despite the fact that she was crying.

Welch conceded there can be tension in the weighing room due to the competitive nature of racing, but told the panel that she regarded Dunne’s behaviour to exceed the normal heated atmosphere between sportspeople and that it had partially been responsible for her decision to stop riding.

“In the incident involving Mr Dunne, the fact that he stood very close in front of me and raised his voice and used swear words in a manner to intimidate me, I think that makes it different,” she said.

“This incident has played on my mind a lot, ever since it happened. I was incredibly upset afterwards and it was a contributing factor to me giving up National Hunt racing. It’s not something easily forgotten. When the BHA contacted me to ask, I had a very clear recollection of events.”

Welch’s recollection differed from Dunne’s, who claimed that he had rebuked her for arriving late at the start of the race and that he had not confronted her afterwards.

“My recollection is that the confrontation in the weighing room was because, in his opinion, I had cut him up on the top bend and he was shouting and swearing at me,” Welch told the panel.

“Definitely shouting at me, definitely swearing, standing very close in front of me. I was crying and he did not stop. As I say, he was accusing me of cutting him up, which was very unfair considering the stewards made no enquiry into it.”

Moore suggested that Dunne had not witnessed Welch crying, to which she responded: “Well, that is incredible.”

Moore also put forward that if the alleged altercation had happened, Dunne would have been challenged by another jockey or valet had the situation “crossed a line”.

“That is the problem, he wasn’t (challenged). He definitely wasn’t,” she told the panel.

“Do you think that shouting and swearing at a young girl isn’t crossing a line?”

Welch was then asked if she had considered reporting the alleged event at the time, to which she told the panel that fears of not being taken seriously and the potential consequences of coming forward had stopped her from doing so.

“I thought it would not be regarded as a serious enough incident and I thought it would have retributions for me if I continued riding, that the other jockeys might not particularly like the fact that I had reported an incident like this,” she said.

The panel also heard from former BHA head of integrity Chris Watts, who denied Moore’s suggestion that he was “good friends” with Frost’s father Jimmy and told the panel that he had only met Jimmy Frost and his wife on one occasion and that it was in the process of the investigation.

Watts also told the panel that his resignation from his post earlier in the year was unrelated to the case and stated that he did not know how excerpts of the report collated prior to the hearing had been leaked to newspapers.

Neil King was also called upon to give evidence to the panel, with the trainer recollecting the moment that Frost broke down and told him about her alleged issues with Dunne.

“I remember Bryony coming into my kitchen and I could see there was something wrong with her, with that she just burst out into tears,” he said.

“When I calmed her down she then told me what had happened.”

King was also asked about an alleged exchange between himself and Frost following a race at Huntingdon on May 21 2019, when Petite Jack was beaten into fifth after starting as the favourite when ridden by Frost.

Moore suggested to King that Frost, who was sharing a lift home with Tom Scudamore, was so upset by a phone call from the trainer that Scudamore later felt compelled to text her words to the effect of “don’t worry, tomorrow’s another day”.

“I can’t recall that at all,” King told the panel.

“The horse disappointed that day, but I didn’t hold Bryony responsible for it.”

The hearing recommences on December 7.