A KITCHEN porter accused of being involved in a fight that halted a Christmas Eve service told jurors he had been trying to restore order.

Paulo Rodrigues described how he had attempted to drag a friend outside after trouble flared at the back of St Edmund’s Church in Southampton halfway through midnight mass.

The city’s crown court has heard previously how an argument between Rodrigues and a woman parishioner ended in a fight and chairs being thrown.

Speaking through an interpreter, Rodrigues – who moved to England from Portugal four years ago in search of work – admitted being “a bit tipsy”

after drinking whisky with his family and friends, and he and two others had been making a bit of noise during the service.

“We were at first behaving like children. I am ashamed of that and how things developed was also shameful.”

Rodrigues said a woman approached one of his friends and started fighting with him.

“They were talking in raised voices, pushing and shoving.

At first I tried to ignore her, I was there to hear mass and not listen to arguments. Then I thought I would go over and separate them. Then someone pushed me and the next thing I knew I was on the floor.”

Rodrigues said they went outside but one of his friends, who had blood on his face, wanted to return and cause problems.

He tried to take him outside but other churchgoers would not let him through to help.

“I was speaking Portuguese.

They could not understand me and I could not understand them. I tried to pull him out to calm things down, and didn’t throw any chairs.”

Rodrigues, 32, of Lyon Road, Southampton, and Jose Barradas, 27, of Derby Road, Southampton, deny affray.

Barrada, who came to England about 13 years ago, denied looking for revenge after seeing his friend’s face covered in blood. “No, I would not do that,” he insisted.

Also speaking through an interpreter, the chef admitted he had drunk six or seven bottles of lager but said he was not drunk. He also claimed he had been trying to calm things down and help take his friend outside.

The court has heard that the third man, identified by the prosecution as the instigator of the trouble, had disappeared after being bailed by police.