A TV quiz show expert – who appeared in Mastermind and University Challenge – was barred from his home town after allegations he called his neighbour a “German idiot” in a row over parking.
But on Friday, John Burke walked free from Maidstone Crown Court after being aquitted on four racial harassment charges.
Mr Burke, 51, who captained the Open University team to victory in the 1999 University Challenge contest, was charged with three counts of using racist language and a racially motivated assault.
It cost the postman from Faversham his home because he didn’t qualify for legal aid.
He was kept on remand for a week at Elmley Prison and was barred from visiting Faversham for three months.
Mr Burke was alleged to have made the remarks to neighbour Uwe Cordes on September 11. Then it was claimed he tried to throttle him.
But a jury threw out the charges after sitting for two hours.
The row started when Mr Burke’s car was parked across part of Dusseldorf-born Mr Cordes’ drive in Ospringe Road.
Mr Cordes and his wife Susan went to Mr Burke’s house and crossly told his wife Louise to move it.
Mr Burke was cooking inside and went to remonstrate with Mr Cordes and his wife about their bad manners.
There was an argument and Mr Cordes raised a concrete block above his head and threatened him with it.
The quiz contestant admits he called his neighbour an idiot but denied calling him a German one.
He also admitted putting his arm out to fend off a possible blow.
Two hours later police handcuffed Mr Burke and he was taken to Sittingbourne Police Station protesting his innocence.
He never set foot in his home in Ospringe Road again and had to move to another part of town.
Mr Cordes said: “I called the police because I had a lot of racial abuse from Mr Burke. I find it extremely insulting to be referred to in that way because of the country of my birth.”
Answering questions from Mr Burke’s counsel Mark Beresford-Ruffell he said: “You wouldn’t dare to ask me these sorts of questions if I was Jewish would you?”
Mr Burke said he wouldn’t abuse Germans because he’s been to the country more than 50 times and admires their music and culture.
One of his Mastermind subjects was German Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1939 to 1945.
He is an expert on church architecture and wrote a definitve history of Bob Geldof’s home at Davington Priory with his co-operation.
Mr Burke said: “I reacted because he was rude to my wife. I said don’t talk to my wife if she’s some kind of dog.”
Afterward the trial he said: “I feel an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I was remanded in custody for a week because of something I never said. We’ve had to sell our house to prove my innocence. I think I might have spoken to the man 20 times in all the time I have lived in Ospringe Road and I have no desire to speak to him again. I want to thank my friends who believed in my innocence and the jury who vindicated me.”
Mr Burke was awarded costs.