A DEFENDANT choked back the tears as he thanked the jury after they cleared him of punching a man so hard it left shards of bone embedded in the victim’s brain.

Kaseem Ashraf, 23, was said by prosecutors to have thrown the punch that put victim Daniyal Khan in hospital for 10 days with a brain injury so severe that he was initially unable to talk.

The injury, which required emergency brain surgery, was inflicted in a melee that one witness compared to ‘gangsters fighting’, prosecutors said.

READ MORE: SCALES OF JUSTICE: Laundry burglar jailed and 13 others at Oxford court

Lawyers for Ashraf pointed to inconsistencies between the accounts given by key prosecution witnesses, who were accused of telling ‘barefaced lies’ and ‘howlers’, changing their story on the witness stand and being ‘willing to bend it like Beckham’.

Jurors at Oxford Crown Court took around an hour to find Ashraf not guilty of wounding with intent and an alternative allegation of causing grievous bodily harm.

The defendant choked back the tears after the verdicts were read out, repeating ‘thank you, thank you’ as the jury left the courtroom.

Speaking after his son was cleared of wrongdoing, the defendant’s father Mashtaq Ashraf told the Oxford Mail: “We’ve lost the last two years of our lives.” The family had suffered threats since the altercations, he claimed.

Giving evidence earlier this week, victim Daniyal Khan said he’d been out for a run with his brother Numaan and a friend on January 7, 2020. The men planned to run from Cowley to Headington along the Eastern by-pass cycle path.

READ MORE: Two sentenced over county lines drug dealing

The less fit of the three, Numaan Khan lost sight of his brother and pal Samir Ahmed. He turned onto Fern Hill Road and bumped into Kaseem Ashraf. Mr Khan had been involved in a dispute with the Ashraf family two years earlier over a girl, jurors heard. He claimed Ashraf threatened him, saying: “You’re lucky I don’t chop your head off.”

Numaan called his brother, Daniyal, who claimed he’d gone to speak to Ashraf as he sat in the front passenger seat of a friend’s hatchback. The trio said Ashraf was the aggressor, variously running back to the house, punching Daniyal in the head with or without a weapon in between his fingers, then urging on a black German Shepherd to attack. Police responding to the incident were told that a gun and a machete were involved.

The defendant denied wrongdoing. On January 7 he’d been out looking for a runaway family dog. Numaan had spoken to him, hugged him and claimed he was a ‘changed Muslim’, he said. He then saw a friend – parked up in his car, waiting for others – and was catching up when Daniyal and Ahmed pulled him out of the car.

Ashraf claimed he’d walked back to his home, further down the road, and saw his brother who suggested they ‘sort it out by talking’. He went back and was hit with a wooden stick by Numaan then fell to the ground, he said. As he lent against a wall for support he saw a white car pull up and three men get out. He then went home.

The son of a neighbour who heard part of the altercation and corroborated the presence of a white or silver 4x4 likened it to a ‘gangster fight’.

READ MORE: Teenagers set fire to cars and village hall

Closing his case to the jury on Wednesday, Ashraf’s barrister Peter du Feu said: “The defence case here is categorically and clearly whatever else happened the defendant’s been set up as the perpetrator of that fated blow.”

He pointed to inconsistencies between the prosecution witnesses, who he accused of telling ‘howlers’,

The barrister reminded jurors of Daniyal Khan’s claims that he’d been told by police not to include a detail in his statement about Ashraf getting a weapon from his dad, which the officer denied. The allegation was in a handwritten note prepared by him ahead of his interview but not in his statement, which he’d meticulously checked and asked to be revised before he signed it.

Mr du Feu said the claim was ‘absolute nonsense’: “When you’re cornered in your own lie you can either gracefully say, as the Americans seem to these days, ‘I misspoke’ or you can keep digging. He chose to pick up the spade.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on news@nqo.com or 01865 425 445.