Football: Ex-England star Gascoigne admits harassment

LONDON - Former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne pleaded guilty to harassing his former girlfriend and assaulting a photographer at a British court on Thursday.

The 48-year-old, capped 57 times by England, admitted to harassing Amanda Thomas and beating Steven Shepherd, a photographer who worked with her new partner, at Bournemouth Magistrates' Court on the English south coast.

The court heard that the former Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers star, popularly known as 'Gazza', posted abusive messages on Twitter about Thomas after their relationship ended at the end of last year.

Lee Turner, for the prosecution, said that after sending her "a series of abusive tweets" and text messages, Gascoigne turned up at the post office where his former partner worked in March this year.

He had previously called Thomas and told her: "I am going to destroy you, I am going to hammer you, I am going to come into the post office tomorrow." When Gascoigne arrived at her place of work the following day, Turner said he started "causing a scene" and shouting her name. He was then arrested after Thomas made a complaint to police.

Gascoigne also admitted assaulting Shepherd, who worked with Thomas's new partner Andrew Stone.

Gascoigne confronted Shepherd after the photographer took pictures of him as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans at a cafe in Bournemouth last June.

The court heard Shepherd suffered a one-inch graze to the head and damaged a pair of spectacles worth £200 ($305, 280 euros). Shepherd subsequently reported the matter to police.

Gavin Harris, defending, said Gascoigne had been in a five-year relationship with Thomas and said that Stone and Shepherd's pursuit of him, in their roles as "paparazzi photographers", was "akin to harassment".

Regarded as one of the most talented footballers England has ever produced, Gascoigne also played for Italian side Lazio, Middlesbrough and Everton during his playing days.

He produced iconic moments with England, starring at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and scoring a memorable volley against Scotland at the 1996 European Championship.

But he has struggled with drug and alcohol problems since retiring in 2004 and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in February 2008.

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