A teenager has been found not guilty of the attempted murder of a gay man on Chester’s historic City Walls.
But the jury sitting at Chester Crown Court took more than three hours to decide that Floyd Evans, 19, did intend to wound 35-year-old Francisco Nascimento on October 21 last year, by stabbing him in the chest.
The attack left Mr Nascimento, originally from Brazil, fighting for his life and was believed by police to have been a homophobic assault because it happened at the top of the City Walls steps on Frodsham Street, a known meeting point for gay men in the city.
In a trial that lasted five days, the jury was told in detail the events leading up to the night of October 21. They heard that on that evening, Mr Nascimento, a cleaner who has lived in the UK since 2005, had been shopping at Tesco on Frodsham Street before making his way along the City Walls, in the hope of finding ‘someone to talk to’.
The court was told that he led a fairly solitary life, had few friends and did not frequent pubs or bars.
That night on the City Walls he encountered a friend, Gareth Davies, whom he chatted to for 40 minutes before they both noticed a ‘skinny, young male’ approaching them.
The man appeared to stop for a few minutes before turning round and coming back up the steps, which Mr Nascimento said was a signal commonly used by gay men at that spot.
The young man was wearing a hat and hoodie that covered that covered much of his face, and the victim said he felt ‘apprehensive’ about him the moment he saw him.
At one point he moved to show the side of his face, and Mr Nascimento was able to make direct eye contact with him.
He had thought the man was about to walk away when he was suddenly struck in the chest before the other man ran off in the direction of Northgate Street.
Gareth Davies called for help and in the meantime, applied pressure to Mr Nascimento’s wound, which doctors later said may have played a part in saving his life.
Evans, who had recently secured work with Cheshire West and Chester Council’s highways department, was arrested on November 11 after PC Lisa Smith, who had encountered him before, identified him from CCTV footage.
Although Mr Nascimento and Mr Davies were unable to pick out Evans from the first identity parade they saw, they later both identified him as the attacker in a second line-up.
During his testimony to the court, Evans accepted he had been out in the city centre on the night of October 21, saying he had visited pubs, was drunk on lager and spirits and had taken some drugs.
He said he then went to Tesco to do some shopping, and claimed he had no recollection of anything that happened after walking through the store entrance until he woke up the next morning.
When shown CCTV images of a man fitting his description walking on the City Walls around the time of the attack, he admitted ‘it could have been me’ but denied knowledge of attacking someone, saying: “I’m sure I’d remember plunging a knife into someone.”
When Peter Moss, defending, asked Evans what he thought about the possibility it had been a homophobic attack, Evans replied: “I have no anti-gay views. Everyone is equal. My brother is gay and I’m perfectly happy with that” - a statement later backed up by his brother who testified in court.
The jury was also told of a 999 call made by Evans months before the incident, in which he threatened to stab police officers and set them alight.
When asked by Mr Moss why he did that, Evans said he’d had an argument with his brother about living arrangements and thought it would be easier to get himself arrested and find a bed that way by making ‘empty threats’.
In his summary, Judge Elgan Edwards told the court that Mr Nascimento was still recovering from his injuries, which had punctuated his body 10-15cm.
He had been left ‘mentally distraught’ by the events of that night, and were it not for the paramedics and skilled doctors at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, it is likely he would not be alive today.
Evans will be sentenced on the wounding with intent charge during the week commencing May 12.