Teen guilty of attacking man trying to break up illegal party

A new date for the Gittisham murder trial will be set at Exeter Crown Court on July 31

Underhill was found guilty after a trial at Exeter Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A teenager has been found guilty of attacking a brave neighbour who tried to close down a lockdown-busting party in Cranbrook.

Rhianna Underhill was one of about 40 young people who packed into a three-bedroom detached house in Best Park on the night of July 18, 2020, for what at the time was an illegal gathering.

The party took place shortly after full lockdown ended in 2020, but strict rules were still in place which restricted indoor mixing.

Neighbour John Campbell led a group of other residents in two attempts to break up the party, which got out of hand after being swamped with gatecrashers, who attacked the host and trashed the house.

He went back with a baseball bat at one stage to protect himself but was standing near the doorway and helping police when he was attacked and racially abused by Underhill.

He, his daughter, and another neighbour who witnessed the assault, all picked her out in a police identification procedure in which they were shown a series of images on a computer screen.

Underhill was found guilty despite telling a jury she was the victim of mistaken identity. She claimed she had lent her hoodie top to another girl.

Underhill, also known as Maddocks, now 19, of St David’s Hill, Exeter, denied racially aggravated assault causing actual bodily harm but was found guilty at Exeter Crown Court.

Most Read

Judge David Evan adjourned the case for a probation report and praised the public-spirited behaviour of Mr Campbell.

He said: "What Mr Campbell did was very courageous. There are not many people who would intervene with a large group of youths. 

"The jury haven’t seen them but I have seen mobile phone footage taken at the party.

"There was clearly an unpleasant assault on the young man who was host and there were racial slurs being shouted, although they were nothing to do with this defendant.

"Mr Campbell deserves some form of formal commendation and a certificate of commendation will be issued to him."

READ MORE: Man was attacked trying to break up lockdown party, court told

During a three-day trial Thomas Faulkner, prosecuting, said several neighbours in Cranbrook went to complain about a party.

The police were called and it stopped briefly before re-starting and getting louder, with visitors apparently wrecking the house and attacking the host.

Mr Campbell went back and saw the householder on the ground being attacked and racially abused. He went to his rescue and got him out but was then attacked by Underhill.

He said: "He was approached by a white female in her late teens or early 20s in a hoodie who stood half a metre away and punched him in the face. We say that woman was this defendant.

"After she hit him, she began racially abusing him, saying he was a f***ing n*****r and asking 'where are your visas'.

Underhill told the jury she had been upstairs with a female friend for most of the party and did not realise that it had got out of hand until the police broke it up.

She denied punching neighbour John Campbell in the face or using the N-word as she left the party. She said she saw him at the doorway but had no contact with him.

Underhill told the jury that she had lent her hoodie top to a friend who left at around the same time as her and this may have led to her being mistakenly identified as the attacker.

She also denied shouting 'where’s your visa?' at Mr Campbell as she left the party or when she returned the next day to pick up her handbag.

She was only 18 at the time and said she did not know the boy who was hosting the party herself but got an invite through friends of friends. She met a girl friend who she had not seen for some time and went upstairs with her to share a bottle of spiced rum.

She said she had not seen Mr Campbell when he and other neighbours made an earlier attempt to break up the party and only noticed him as she was being ushered out by police at the end.

She said: "He was stood by the police. There was this massive unit and everyone was being chucked out of the party. It was quite late, about 1am.

"I could see the house had been completely destroyed but I did not see anyone other than the police trying to remove the party goers. I saw Mr Campbell with the police but I did not attack him."

Warren Robinson, defending, said there were doubts about the identification process because Mr Campbell did not pick out Underhill on the first viewing and there was a possibility that other witnesses may have seen her image on Facebook before they went to the police station.