Man found not guilty of attempting to murder Burgess Hill council worker
A man who drove straight at a council worker smashing him off the windscreen into a hedge has been found not guilty of attempted murder.
Arthur James McGhie pleaded guilty to attempted GBH with intent by aiming his car at another driver after attacking him in the street in Burgess Hill.
A jury found him not guilty of the attempted murder of council worker Steven Smith and guilty of assaulting an off duty police officer who tried to arrest him.
McGhie, of Cants Lane, Burgess Hill, drove his Kia Picanto at Mr Smith from behind on August 24 last year as he walked away from the row.
Video of the incident was played to the jury showing Mr Smith walking away from the confrontation with McGhie before he deliberately smashes into him from behind.
Former soldier Steven Smith - who escaped with minor injuries - said he will never forget the feeling of his head bouncing off the car.
The incident went viral before McGhie was arrested.
Wearing jeans, blue sweatshirt and blue facemask, McGhie stared straight ahead as the verdicts were delivered.
Earlier the court heard how the 55-year-old ploughed into Mr Smith after the confrontation in the street knocking the council parking manager into the hedge, McGhie got out of his car and tried to punch him again.
The court heard roadside recovery driver McGhie only stopped his attack when a member of the public shouted she had called police.
He drove straight into a metal signpost before limping less than 100m up the street and parking the badly damaged car in his own driveway.
Within minutes, video of the attack went viral after being shared on Facebook.
An off duty police officer saw the clip while she was out walking with a friend and recognised McGhie as a man she had seen staring at the scene.
McGhie yanked her by the ponytail, cracking her head off a wall, when she tried to arrest him.
Graphic police body worn footage showed how it took four officers to subdue McGhie who tried to claim he was acting in self defence.
The jury at Hove Trial Centre were told McGhie had likely been suffering from paranoid delusions and a relapsing paranoid schizophrenia for many years.
Doctors who assessed him concluded despite his mental illness there was nothing to stop him forming the intent to commit the offences.
Victim Steven Smith told the court he would never forget turning to see the car windscreen rushing towards him.
He said the confrontation with McGhie started after he tried to let him go at a junction as he drove home from work.
“I flashed him, so he could go. I was being nice.
“Then I did a hand gesture to say you can go.He was just staring at me.
“He was wearing a facemask but his eyes were glued to me.I found it very odd, the whole behaviour,” he said.
Mr Smith said he pulled over thinking there might be something wrong with his car.
“I decided to get out of my car which in hindsight, I can see was a silly thing to do.
“I said ‘Sorry, have I done something wrong?’.
“It seemed the whole situation went from nought to 100 in a flash.
“He jumped out very aggressively. He was definitely a bloke on a mission.”
The men were complete strangers, the court heard.
Mr Smith was in uniform and wearing a Mid Sussex council lanyard.
“He came up to me and said something along the lines of ‘You guys are sneaky, you sneak around’ and he looked at my chest and he goes ‘Yes, you lot’.
“I could see him looking at my chest where my emblem was.
“‘You are vermin, you go out of your way to upset people’.
“He was coming out with all these funny words, some I could catch.
“I told him, ‘Who do you think I work for, what dept and we can talk about it. After that he wasn’t making any sense.”
Mr Smith said he was used to abuse from the public as the line manager in the dept of traffic wardens.
His uniform does not identify him as working in the Parking dept, he told the court.
“He just kept repeating himself and I thought he was on drugs,” Mr Smith said.
“He was trying to kick me. He was trying to attack me.
“I can’t remember what was said. He was growling. Groaning and growling. Iwas just telling him to calm down.”
The pair grappled on the ground until Mr Smith thought he had subdued McGhie. “I was going to get in my car, go home and speak to my wife,” Mr Smith said.
“As I walked back, I heard a noise.I don’t know if it was a shout or a scream.
“As I looked over my right shoulder, I ended up on the bonnet of his vehicle.
“I saw the bonnet of his vehicle. To be honest, I just closed my eyes. The next minute, I woke up on the hedge.
“I think I blacked out because I don’t remember going through the air. My head bouncing off his windscreen, it’s something you don’t forget,” he said.
McGhie attacked him again as he was trapped between railings and the hedge.
Mr Smith, who discharged himself from hospital later the same day, said he was still finding shards of glass in his head months later.
In a rambling police interview, McGhie said he was being stalked and watched by his neighbours and believed there was a tracker in his car.
McGhie, who has two previous convictions for assault, declined to give evidence at the four day trial.
He admitted three other charges of attempted GBH with intent, dangerous driving and assaulting police.
McGhie will be sentenced in September after a new psychiatric report and dangerousness assessment have been carried out.
DS Mark Buckley said after the hearing: “This has been a lengthy investigation, which has had a significant impact on those involved.
“We’d like to thank the victim for their bravery and to the witnesses who have assisted with our enquiries.
“We are thankful of the careful consideration of the evidence given by the members of the public who served on the jury and we respect their verdict.
“We hope that these proceedings help to provide the victim with some closure on what has been a very traumatic incident.”