AN IRISHMAN has claimed England cricketer Ben Stokes defended him and a friend after allegedly suffering homophobic abuse at a Bristol nightclub last month.
Billy O’Connell, 20, and his friend Kai Berry, 26, claimed they were subjected to verbal abuse inside the Mbargo nightclub and later on the street outside, at which point the cricketer came to their aid.
England vice-captain Stokes was arrested after the incident on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
He was later released without charge but remains under investigation.
Speaking to the Sun, Mr O’Connell – who was born in Ireland but moved to Britain 10 years ago – said: “We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.
“Kai feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.”
The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday, September 25, when Stokes was out with teammate Alex Hales.
The pair were in the city with the England team, who had defeated the West Indies in a one-day international at Bristol’s Brightside Ground earlier on Sunday.
After the incident, the England and Wales Cricket Board said Stokes would not be selected until further notice, and he did not fly out to Australia with the Ashes squad at the weekend.
Stokes’ agent, Neil Fairbrother, has said the cricketer “will make public his full explanation and evidence when the time is right”.