Sir Ian McKellen’s agent claims YouTube activist jumped on to his bonnet in ‘Gandalf Corner’ confrontation
Sir Ian McKellen’s agent says he was “surprised and intimidated” when he drove with an activist YouTuber on the bonnet of his Range Rover, a court heard.
Paul Lyon-Maris, 60, is accused of twice driving into 50-year-old Michael van Erp at a junction dubbed “Gandalf Corner” in a row over an illegal right turn.
It is said he knocked Mr van Erp on to the bonnet with the vehicle, then drove around the corner with him still “clinging” to the car.
Mr van Erp, known on YouTube and Twitter as CyclingMikey, told Southwark crown court he has been filming bad drivers since 2006 and believes he has made around 1,000 reports to police since 2018.
In the incident on September 9 last year, he claims Lyon-Maris, a top talent agent who represents actors including Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen, “bumped” into him, leaving him clinging to the bonnet as the car moved forward and around a corner.
Giving evidence, Lyon-Maris denied ever using his car against Mr van Erp and suggested the activist had struck his Range Rover with a selfie stick camera and “jumped” on to the bonnet himself.
Describing the incident, Lyon-Maris admitted leaving a queue of traffic to try to make an illegal turn before putting on the brakes when Mr van erp “stepped out right in front of me”.
“I didn’t know who he was, what he was trying to do”, he said. “He was waving his arms and in his hand he had a long stick.”
The incident was caught on cameras as Lyon-Maris and his partner of 33 years Robin Muir insisted they were late for a doctor’s appointment.
“Being met with this rather intimidating figure, I came up with something I thought might calm the situation and I said I’m on my way to a doctor’s appointment”, said Lyon-Maris, accepting that it was actually an appointment with a physiotherapist.
“I said it specifically because I thought it was a calming thing to say to someone you don’t know who has stepped out in front of you, waving their arms around and holding a stick.
“He then, with his stick, banged it down on the windscreen. At which point I said ‘what the hell? What’s going on. What are you doing?
“Before I knew it, he was on my bonnet. He fell on it, jumped on it, he was suddenly on it.
“His body omved forward, hit my car, and his stick hit your windscereen.”
Lyon-Maris said he believed he had no option but to drive forward despite Mr van Erp still being on the bonnet.
“I’m not used to having people jump on my bonnet in a public highway”, he said. “I had to make a decision about what to do.
“It’s right to say it was a time when everyone’s nerves were heightened, Covid was still an issue. There’s a stranger on the bonnet with a stick in his hand, without any clarity of what he was doing.
“I did decide very slowly to move forward and out of the way of any traffic.”
Earlier, jurors heard how Mr van Erp often films drivers breaking the road rules and passes on the evidence to police.
His videos were behind the prosecutions of film director Guy Ritchie and former Champion boxer Chris Eubank, the court heard, as well as a criminal case that was ultimately dropped against football boss Frank Lampard.
“I video evidence of drivers breaking the law and report them”, Mr van Erp said. “I then leave it to the justice system to deal with.”
Asked why he steps into the road rather than simply observing from the pavement, he told jurors: “I’m stopping the immediate danger that those drivers pose to the other users of the road.
“I see it as stopping danger in much the way you might take the keys from a drunk danger.”
Mr van Erp said he does not believe his actions pose a risk to anyone but himself, and said he has been told his activism is helping to make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The incident with Lyon-Maris happened at a junction with a ‘no-right-turn’ sign, where drivers regularly flout the rule to avoid a lengthy queue.
“I think that junction has become considerably safer”, said Mr van Erp. “I’m told that the Metropolitan Police Service in the Royal Parks have said my actions have reduced the dangers at that junction.”
Lyon-Maris, a director of the Independent talent Group which has clients including Daniel Craig, Warwick Davis, and Colin Firth, is accused of dangerous driving and assault in the run-in with Mr van Erp.
Mr van Erp told the court the junction, in Outer Circle next to Regents Park, has been nicknamed “Gandalf Corner” after a 2019 incident - caught on camera and posted online - when he was struck by a silver Mercedes and knocked on to the bonnet.
“Someone made a comment that it was like Gandalf, you shall not pass”, he said, making a reference to the famous incident in the first Lord of the Rings film.
“Ironically this (trial) involves the agent for Sir Ian McKellen who is Gandalf.”
Michael Epstein, defending, questioned Mr van Erp on his social media “fame”, suggesting he gains more followers and viewers by confronting drivers rather than simply filming their traffic rule-breaking.
“My concern is far more with justice than with social media”, he replied.
Mr van Erp said he had started to gain followers after being reTweeted by BBC presenter Jeremy Vine, telling jurors: “I was quite bemused and had no idea anyone would be interested in seeing anything like that.”
He also denied the claim that he had “jumped” on to Lyon-Maris’ bonnet during the incident, and told the court: “I did not move forward towards the Range Rover.
“I remember going down in the manner of a crash test dummy.”
He added: “I remember thinking ‘dear god, I hope he doesn’t speed off down Outer Circle afterwards with me still in the bonnet’.” In footage of the incident, Lyon-Maris can be seen shouting “get out of the way” and saying he had to get to an urgent medical appointment.
His car moved slowly down the road with Mr van Erp on the front, taking the illegal right turn before stopping around 20 yards down the road.
The talent agent, from Belsize Park, north London, pleaded guilty and was fined for failing to comply with a road sign. He denies dangerous driving and assault by beating. The trial continues.