British actor Stephen Tompkinson has described his Educating Rita co-star Jessica Johnson as a “shining light” who looked after him during his grievous bodily harm investigation and trial.
The DCI Banks star was accused of punching a drunk man in the head, who fell to the ground and broke his skull, after finding him and a friend drinking and making noise at the bottom of his driveway in the early hours of May 30 2021.
The 57-year-old was cleared by a jury of inflicting GBH earlier this month at Newcastle Crown Court.
On Friday, he appeared on ITV’s Lorraine in his first televised interview since the trial, recalling the incident which he said “could have been investigated a lot sooner and dealt with there and then rather than waiting two years”.
He credited his Educating Rita co-star Johnson as inspiring him to get through the ordeal with her strong attitude after she experienced a traumatic incident.
“Jess was amazing,” he said. “And frankly, my problems went into a top hat six weeks later when Jess’s parents were sitting in stationary traffic in Durham.
“A lorry driver behind them, who we then found out was sexting on his phone on an adult dating hook-up site, didn’t see the traffic, hadn’t stopped and ploughed into them at 56 miles an hour killing them instantly, and the driver of the car in front, and injured people in other vehicles.”
To all our audiences of @EducatingRitaUK at the @Rosetheatre who have booked for the next two weeks hold tight and we will contact you on Monday as we are going to see how many extra performances we can fit in before Thursday that we can offer you #notbeatenyet pic.twitter.com/2BiOLGAX0E
— David Pugh (@davidsoho1) October 31, 2020
Lorry driver Ion Onut was jailed for eight years and 10 months at Durham Crown Court last July after admitting three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Tompkinson explained that he and Johnson were performing Educating Rita at the time and because it had been “stopped a couple of times” during Covid, Johnson decided to continue performing.
He said: “She went into this incredible mode, I don’t know how she did it and a few weeks later attended the double funeral of her mum, stepdad and was then back on stage that night in Kingston-upon-Thames.
“So if you ever needed an example of strength and a shining light, she has been that throughout and looked after me through this.”
“I’ll never be able to thank her enough,” he added.
Tompkinson said she had also helped him in the run-up to the tour of his new play Stumped, which will see him star as playwright Samuel Beckett, helping him get “the flow with the dialogue”.
Earlier this month a jury found the actor not guilty of causing grievous bodily harm after deliberating for just under two hours.
Tompkinson told chat show host Lorraine Kelly: “You have to wonder was it worth bringing (to court).
“They were trying to prove a punch that never happened. There was no evidence on my hand, on the guy’s face. He was just incredibly drunk and he fell.”
Lorraine airs weekdays at 9am on ITV1 and ITVX.