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A right royal row – solicitor in front row clash with fashion designer
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

17 Dec 2019 / courts Print

Right royal row – solicitor in front row seat clash

A London solicitor has been convicted of assaulting a fashion designer during a front-row brawl at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Matthew Feargrieve (43) was found guilty yesterday (16 December) of punching designer Ulrich Engler during a performance of Wagner at the Royal Opera House on 7 October 2018.

Investment funds lawyer Feargrieve punched Engler with “a constant flow of blows” after the designer took an empty seat, adjacent to Feargrieve’s companion Catherine Chandler and moved her coat.

City of London Magistrates’ court heard that Engler had moved up from further back into an empty front-row seat next to the couple at the opera three days earlier, and did so again on 7 October for the second part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Prosecutor Charles Shelton said: “We say Mr Feargrieve had seen Mr Engler climbing over the seat before that night and took some offence.

“He thought it was poor form and he was annoyed at Mr Engler for that kind of action.”

Engler gave evidence that he asked Chandler if he could sit in the vacant seat next to her. When she said he could not, he asked whether she had paid for the seat.

She replied that she hadn’t. Engler sat down in the front row and moved a coat on to her lap.

Feargrieve then punched Engler at least once.


Engler said he had injuries to his left side.

“The only three things I said to this woman was: would you mind if I sat next to you again, have you paid for the seat, and that I was sorry”.

Engler was banned from the Royal Opera House after the incident.

Elaine McMaster, a former physiotherapist who was attending the opera, told the court Mr Engler “neatly” and quietly climbed over without causing a disturbance,

She said that at a previous performance, the couple had “spoiled the whole evening for me, I couldn’t see the stage at all”.


McMaster said the couple were distracting other patrons by swaying side to side to the music, hair-flicking, and being noisy.

“People don’t behave like that in their local cinema, let alone in the Royal Opera House,” she added.

Feargrieve, in evidence, said he had pushed Engler in self-defence.

He said that his shoulder was dislocated as a result of Catherine Chandler being shoved into him by Mr Engler.

District Judge John Zani did not accept Feargrieve’s evidence or argument of self-defence and, after a one-day trial, the lawyer was found guilty of common assault.

One man's punch

“This is not a case of one’s man punch is another man’s shove,” the judge said.

“Your evidence has been consistently that maybe fingertips touched.

“I accept the evidence of the prosecution witnesses where they say you punched Mr Engler at least once, maybe twice or three times.

“I am entirely satisfied that you are guilty.”

The court heard Engler was diagnosed with PTSD after the incident.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland