Ex-Arsenal footballer Sammy Nelson, 69, is cleared of groping a pensioner

A former Arsenal footballer and FA Cup winner has been cleared of sexually assaulting an elderly woman on a bus.

Sammy Nelson, 69, who played for Arsenal, Brighton and Northern Ireland, was alleged to have grabbed the woman during a bus journey.

The court heard that after telling her he was a former Northern Ireland international he shoved is hand between her legs.

The woman said she reacted in ‘horror’ and told him: ‘If you ever do that to me again I will give you such a slap.’

The court heard just minutes later he did exactly the same thing again leaving the the woman ‘shocked and angry.’

But at Brighton Magistrates Court he was cleared of sexual assault though he pleaded guilty to a separate charge of assault after admitting he had grabbed her hand and held it to his face.

Nelson, who is a pensioner, was given an unconditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 in costs.

The left back played in the 1982 Northern Ireland World Cup team in Spain in 1982.

Magistrates heard Nelson and his son, Peter, had been to London on Saturday October 28 to watch Arsenal win at the Emirates and were returning home on a bus in Brighton shortly after 9.30pm.

Described in court as ‘one of life’s entertainers’ magistrates heard Nelson had been drinking and showed a lack of inhibitions during the journey. He became involved in banter with passengers on the bus and began talking with some elderly people who were returning home after attending a Beethoven concert in Brighton.

He asked the group: ‘Are you all on your way back to your care homes?’ before continuing to joke with them He sat down next to a 75-year-old woman on the packed bus before making conversation with her about football. Nelson told the woman his name and said he was a former footballer who had played for North Ireland.

The court heard that the pair were chatting but suddenly, without any warning, Nelson shoved his hand between her legs.

The victim told the court: ‘He put his hand down, with some force, between my legs near my pubic area. ‘I was shocked and really, really angry. I told him: ‘If you ever do that to me again I will give you such a slap.’

She stopped talking to him but said just minutes later Nelson assaulted her in exactly the same way once again. She said: ‘He did exactly the same thing again. He put his hand down there, to my private parts. ‘I asked him to move away from me. I said: ‘You’re invading my personal space’ and he moved to the next seat along.’

The court watched CCTV footage taken of the bus journey which showed Nelson apparently picking up the woman’s hand and either kissing it or holding it to his face.

It also showed him nudging and reaching over to the victim as they sat next to each other but did not show a sexual assault.

Emily Baxter, defending, suggested Nelson may have tapped her ‘playfully and jokingly’ in conversation but did not grab her groin. In cross examination Nelson admitted he had drunk a few pints of lager and was a bit drunk.

He said: ‘I’d had a few. I could stand and walk but if I was tested by the police I’d be over the top.’

But he denied that under the influence of too much drink he had tried to chat up the woman saying: ‘I wouldn’t do that.’ Nelson who played more than 300 games for Arsenal winning the FA Cup final against Manchester United in 1979.

In 1981 he moved to Brighton and Hove Albion before retiring from the sport two seasons later.

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