RACEHORSE groom Barry Brown faces jail after being convicted of hitting an 11-year-old girl with a walking stick.

Brown, head groom at Ridgeway stud farm, Chilton, near Didcot, gave the girl a three-inch bruise on her arm after she asked for a ride on a horse. She and two friends, aged nine and 15, fled in terror after the 47-year-old came after them shouting: "Get off my land."

But Brown - who had a previously unblemished record - was cleared by a jury of assaulting a disabled woman with the girls.

Manic depressive Jan Duguid, who had struggled to walk since breaking her hip, claimed she had been having an affair with Brown and was "in love with him".

Brown, and wife Elizabeth, claimed the affair was a fantasy and Mrs Duguid had been pestering them for months before the incident, on July 22 last year. Mrs Duguid, who lives with her husband in Chilton, had been seen at the stud farm several times since it was bought by racehorse trainer Guy Williams in October 1996. Oxford Crown Court heard she was often with children and had previously asked about the horses.

Jonathan Coode, prosecuting, said Brown lost his temper after coming out of his mobile home to find Mrs Duguid and "private" signs on his gate damaged.

The 11-year-old girl, who was on holiday, told the jury: "He said it was me who ripped the signs down and that is when he hit me with a big stick."

Mrs Duguid claimed Brown tipped her out of her wheelchair and threw it in a nearby cornfield. Brown denied attacking the girl, claiming he only shouted at her. But he was found guilty. He was cleared of a second charge of common assault on Mrs Duguid.

Brown was granted bail to await sentence on June 15.

The court heard that Mrs Duguid has since been bound over to keep the peace after she returned to the farm and confronted Brown.

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