Charity shop volunteer fears for the life of a customer attacked in a shop

A volunteer charity shop worker has described the moment a man discussing Covid-19 went from calm to ‘very aggressive’ and started punching another customer.

The man, Stephen Elliot, 45, is on trial in Napier District Court and charged with assault with intent to injure and assault of a man against a woman.

Elliot was in the Salvation Army family store in Taradale, Napier, on January 26 last year, speaking loudly as he told one of the shop assistants that he did not think Covid-19 was worse than the cold, that he had tried to catch it in Australia and couldn’t, and that he didn’t think the masks were necessary.

Also in the store that day were a man, his wife and their son, who had dropped off items.

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Stephen Elliot leaves Napier District Court.


Stephen Elliot leaves Napier District Court.

The man took offense at what Elliot was saying. He approached Elliot and told him he was “talking shit”.

This sparked an argument that led to the assaults.

The store volunteer told a jury on Tuesday that Elliot initially spoke calmly about how he didn’t think Covid-19 was serious.

She said Elliot’s demeanor changed instantly when the man made his remark.

She said Elliot started shouting “I’m not talking shit. You’re talking shit,” his chest puffed out and brought his face within four inches of the man’s face.

The volunteer said that Elliot “just broke down”. He became “very aggressive, lost control, was difficult and confrontational,” she said.

Elliot was yelling at the man “Do you want to go?” Let’s take this outside. I’ll fucking kill you,” she said.

The 60-year-old victim told the court on Monday that he weighed around 80kg and was 175cm tall. In a video Elliot posted on Facebook shortly after the incident, he boasted that he weighed 140kg, had practiced martial arts all his life and trained with weights every day. .

Stephen Elliot on the day of the alleged assaults.  (File photo)


Stephen Elliot on the day of the alleged assaults. (File photo)

The victim told the court he was upset by what Elliot was saying because his stepmother was in hospital dying of Covid.

When Elliot got mad at the man, the woman stepped in and tried to explain why her husband was upset. At that point, Elliot pushed the woman away, the court heard. This prompted the man to punch Elliot in the face.

Elliot threw the man to the ground and then punched him six times in the head. When the man’s wife tried to intervene again, Elliot pushed her away harder, throwing her against a counter.

The volunteer said she was a registered nurse and was very worried about how hard Elliot hit the victim on the head while she was lying on the floor.

“I remember thinking if this guy was on blood thinners he was dead,” she said.

Elliot claims he acted in self-defense. The Crown says its reaction was “grossly disproportionate”.

The trial, before Judge Russell Collins, is scheduled to end on Wednesday.

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