AN angry antiques dealer has gone on trial accused of attacking an auctioneer in Ashburton who he claimed had sold him a fake diamond ring.

Lee Clarke allegedly threatened to stab saleroom manager David Marochan before pushing him so hard that he fell backwards into a receptionist, breaking her wrist in the process.

He went into the Rendells Fine Art Auctions in Ashburton to demand a refund a week after buying the diamond ring and claiming to have tested the stone and found it was cubic zirconia rather than a diamond.

An argument began when Mr Marochan told him he could not do anything because the ring had been removed from the premises and he could not be sure it was the same item.

Clarke pushed Mr Marochan as he tried to stop him getting behind the counter at the showroom and heading for the back office, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Mr Marochan was not injured in the incident but receptionist Katherine Pugh suffered a fractured wrist after raising her arms to break his fall.

Internet antique trader Clarke, aged 44, of St Marks Road, Torquay, denies causing actual bodily harm to Ms Pugh and assault by battery against Mr Marochan. He says he did not hit anyone and Mr Marochan had stumbled backwards.

Miss Victoria Bastock, prosecuting, said Clarke bought a diamond ring which was Lot 1590 in a Fine Art, Antiques and Collectables sale in late September 2021 and phoned Rendells on October 6 to say he had tested the stone and believed it was not a diamond.

He spoke to Ms Pugh who told him he would have to visit the office and he arrived the next morning ten minutes after they opened at 9am. He had to wait until Mr Marochan returned from another appointment at 9.45 am, when an argument broke out.

Miss Bastock said: ‘The prosecution case is that Clarke became aggressive when he demanded a refund and was refused. He made threats to Mr Marochan and pushed him to the chest, causing him to stumble into Ms Pugh.

‘When he was interviewed by police, Clarke alleged that Rendells had fabricated the case because he was threatening to sue them over the ring and they wanted to discredit him.

‘He said Mr Marochan had been aggressive towards him and denied touching or pushing him.’

Clarke had initiated civil proceedings over the ring but dropped the case later.

Ms Pugh told the jury that Clarke picked up a pair of scissors and threatened to stab Mr Marochan in the ear before putting then down and had then tried to get to the office before being blocked and pushing Mr Marochan.

She said: ‘When Mr Clarke realised that Rendells were not going to refund the ring, he became upset and aggressive. Mr Marochan tried to calm him down. He got up and moved to block the entrance to the back office.

‘Mr Clarke pushed Mr Marochan with one hand. His arm went back and came forward and made contact.

‘It was quite a large contact and caused him to stumble backwards. I put my hand up to brace myself and it felt like a weight was pushed against my hand.

‘Afterwards, I felt a bit shaken. It had been a bit of an ordeal.’

She said she then escorted Clarke out of the office while warning him she would call the police and the incident was reported after he had driven off.

Ms Pugh said: ‘When we were outside Mr Clarke started back towards Mr Marochan and said if he didn’t get a refund within seven days, he would be back and he would not be alone.’

In cross-examination, she said that Mr Marochan told Clarke that the ring could not be refunded because it had been taken off the premises but had not accused him of switching it.

She said the stone would have been tested before it was sold and that Clarke would have had the option of testing it himself when he viewed it shortly before the sale.

The trial continues