A man has admitted killing a Welsh tourist, once named one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors, more than three years ago – but claims it was in self-defence.
Robert Davies said that he mistook Lavern Paul Ritch, of Penarth, for part of a gang of Mexicans bent on harming or killing him when he lashed out with a pocket knife, piercing Mr Ritch’s heart.
Prosecutors in Mays Landing, New Jersey, say Mr Ritch was actually intervening in a fight between Davies and a man who had punched him in the face moments earlier, thinking he was helping Davies.
Davies says Mr Ritch ran up to him from behind and surprised him, causing him to lash out with the knife.
Mr Ritch was a contestant on the Gladiators reality TV show and was once named among Britain’s most eligible bachelors.
Robert Davies is representing himself in his trial on murder and weapons charges, among others.
In his opening statement to the jury he said he mistook Lavern Paul Ritch for part of a group of Mexicans who were chasing him after one of them had assaulted him, bloodying his face.
Prosecutors said the incident on August 12 2007 was touched off by a racist insult Davies hurled toward a Mexican man in the men’s room of a bar in Margate, a Jersey shore community a few miles south of Atlantic City.
Davies told the jury that the prosecutor in the case “has presented that Lavern Paul Ritch was an innocent victim, and that I killed him. That I did; it’s a fact. I wish I could change that. But there’s a difference between being an innocent bystander and someone who interjects himself into a gang-style assault”.
Mr Ritch appeared as a contestant in the British version of Gladiators in 1998, making it to the quarter-finals. He was a swimming and fitness instructor in Cardiff, was listed in a 2002 poll of Britain’s 50 most eligible bachelors by Company magazine; and was named the 12th most eligible man in Wales that same year in a local newspaper.