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10:30 - 18 August 2004
A Former sparring partner of heavyweight boxing star Lennox Lewis, has vowed to sue Tesco for alleged racism and unfair dismissal after being cleared in court of attacking a customer.

Terry Duffus, 43, a former professional boxer, was sacked by the supermarket giant, where he worked as a security guard, after he hit abusive customer Daniel Hodges on October 10 last year. Mr Duffus told Gloucester Crown Court that he had been acting in self defence - and after just four minutes of deliberations, the jury agreed with him, clearing him of the charge of grievous bodily harm.

He had explained to the court how he had hit back in self defence during the latest in a series of 'Friday night ritual' incidents, when Mr Hodges and his friends visited the store in Collett's Drive, Cheltenham, to racially abuse him.

The former boxer, who sparred with former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis at the start of his career, was dismissed by Tesco on November 15 last year, nine months before he proved his innocence in court.

Mr Duffus, of Druids Lane, Gloucester, who has consulted a solicitor and plans to start unfair dismissal proceedings next week, claimed: "I believe Tesco are institutionally racist, and that there was a collective failure of responsibility.

"The letter dismissing me said 'We are a retail store, not a nightclub.' I was just doing my job to the best of my ability."

Mr Duffus, who told the court he was the only black guard working at the store at the time, told the jury in the trial that Mr Hodges had made to hit him before he was forced to take action and punched him, shattering his jaw.

He also claimed he had received little support in his duties in the weeks leading up to the incident, despite having to wage a full-time war on crime in the store.

After the hearing, he said: "On my very first night I was attacked with a bottle.

"They were stealing to order. One Monday a junkie came in and nicked 200 worth of DVDs and another time I had a knife pulled on me.

"Night guard is the most hostile job going, these guys were piling up Southern Comfort in the dog food aisle and they had a man inside telling where I was so they could grab it and run when I was farthest away."

A spokesman for Tesco said: "Terry Duffus was a good security guard and an asset to the store, but was dismissed after attacking a customer and breaking his jaw.

"After a full investigation into the incident his dismissal was upheld.

"Tesco cannot condone violence against our customers.

"Tesco is a diverse and inclusive company and does not tolerate racism. We have a very diverse workforce with tens of thousands of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds, a number of whom work at the store in question.

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