Zara in brawl with boyfriend

by LOUISA PRITCHARD, Mail on Sunday

Princess Anne was last night said to be shocked and furious after it was revealed that police had been called to an ugly late-night brawl between her daughter Zara and the teenager's boyfriend, Richard Johnson.

The Queen's eldest granddaughter was pulled from a car and thrown to the ground by National Hunt jockey Johnson and the couple were seen screaming, swearing, kicking and punching each other in a fracas which left 19-year-old Zara sobbing hysterically.

The astonishing scene - said to be a jealous row over Zara flirting with one of Mr Johnson's friends - took place outside the Gloucestershire home of jockey Warren Marston last Saturday.

It was witnessed by chauffeur Jeremy Hill, 26, who said: 'She [Zara] was doing as much as he was. They were kicking and hitting out at each other. Dickie [Richard] ripped her puffa as he tried to pull it off, there was a lot of screaming, he was swearing at her demanding his car keys.'

Zara and 22-year-old Mr Johnson, who have been together for nine months and spent a romantic holiday in Mustique, had spent the evening at Rosie O'Grady's pub in Oxford with Mr Johnson's friend Mr Marston, 28, and his girlfriend of six years, Kelly Lane.

The two jockeys both ride at the Ford Farm Racing Stables in the Cotswolds, although they compete for different people.

The four were collected by Mr Hill just after midnight and driven back to Bourton-on-the-Water in Mr Marston's black BMW.

But tempers flared when Mr Johnson and Miss Lane, 26, got out of the car while Zara, a talented horsewoman, stayed in the back seat to chat to Mr Marston.

Miss Lane, a fitness trainer in nearby Cheltenham, is understood to have playfully accused the young Royal of having a secret relationship with her boyfriend. The remark enraged Mr Johnson who pulled Zara out of the car and threw her to the ground.

Mr Hill, who has been driving for Mr Marston for a year, was reluctant to discuss the incident but admitted: 'Dickie suddenly ran over to the car, ripped Zara from the back and threw her to the floor. He was asking for his car keys but she wouldn't give them to him. He was swinging at her, she was crying hysterically and tears were running down her face. I think she was crying with the shock - it was out of the blue. I chucked him on the bonnet of the car to get him off her.'

The two couples then went into Mr Marston's house, but once inside, Mr Johnson, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, turned on Zara again demanding his car keys. Her screams during the 25-minute fight alarmed neighbours in the quiet cul-de-sac so much that they called the police.

But before officers could reach the house, Mr Johnson stormed off and began walking the ten miles to his house in nearby Toddington. Zara, who first met the jump jockey in 1999 at the Gloucestershire stables owned by David Nicholson, a close friend of Princess Anne, jumped into his green Mercedes and raced after her boyfriend, along the country road near the spot where she crashed her £19,000 Land Rover last month.

Neighbours yesterday confirmed there had been a 'rumpus' outside Mr Marston's house. One, who did not want to be named, said: 'There was a hell of a row out there, there was a girl screaming at a bloke. Every time he went near her she screamed. There seemed to be a fight and the dustbin went flying. I don't think he was hitting her, she was hitting him more.

'Every time he went near her she'd let out a scream. He wasn't a big chap - not nearly as tall as Warren. I don't know who they were.

'The girl who was screaming was blonde, I couldn't see what she looked like. She was wearing a pullover and jeans. The man she was fighting with was very short. One chap went wandering off up the road and I called 999.'

Two officers from Stow-on-the-Wold police station arrived at Mr Marston's house at 1.30am. They left five minutes later after investigating reports of two couples arguing.

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Police said: 'Police received a 999 call at 1.23am. Officers arrived at the address at 1.33am. It was reported as a domestic falling out between two couples. When the officers arrived, there was a man in bed, a girl making a cup of coffee and another man. All was quiet and it all appeared to have been sorted out. Some advice was given and the officers left at 1.38am.'

Mr Hill, who was present when the police arrived, admits he did not tell the officers that Zara and Mr Johnson had been at the house but after the officers left, he drove after the Royal teenager.

He said: 'Zara had pulled over and I could see them arguing in the middle of the road. In the end, she drove off. I offered Dickie a lift but he refused. By this time it was about 2am.'

Mr Hill said he did not know if Zara, a spirited girl who boasts a pierced tongue and navel and has been seen racing barefoot along a hotel corridor with Mr Johnson, had been drinking and admitted he was astonished at Mr Johnson's behaviour. He added: 'You don't let a girl get beaten up, if no one had tried to stop it, it could have got a lot worse than it did.'

Last night, the couples tried to deny the ugly incident but their versions of events were remarkably inconsistent.

Mr Marston admitted Mr Johnson and Zara had been to his house last Saturday, saying: 'We went to a do in Oxford. They came here early on to meet up for a lift but they didn't come back here afterwards. There was no fighting.'

Miss Lane refused to comment about the brawl, saying: 'I don't like this kind of thing, I don't want to get involved.'

Zara, who answered the door at Johnson's house, pretended she had never heard of Warren Marston and then denied being at his house, saying: 'We were not even at Warren's last Saturday. We did not go to Oxford. You are obviously listening to the wrong people.'

However, Paul Monahan, a barman at Rosie O'Grady's pub in Oxford said: 'I saw Zara in here last Saturday night. She was definitely here.'

Mr Johnson, who yesterday rode at Cheltenham, was not available for comment according to Zara, who was also answering his mobile telephone.

Mr Marston later claimed there had been a lot of people at his house last Saturday. 'Lots of people came back but they were not there. You know that for a fact because the police never saw them.'