October 25th, 2016

Manslaughter charge dropped in Warwick pensioner death trial

Manslaughter charge dropped in Warwick pensioner death trial Manslaughter charge dropped in Warwick pensioner death trial
Updated: 7:53 am, Jul 18, 2016

A MAN accused of manslaughter after a Warwick pensioner three times his age collapsed and died during a confrontation with him has had the charge against him thrown out.

Steven Jones, who is from Warwick but of no fixed address, had been charged with the manslaughter of 75-year-old William Heathcote in a Warwick street in November 2014.

The pensioner died after collapsing with heart failure following a confrontation with 25 year-old Jones, who had banged on the window of his Pickard Street home.

But at Warwick Crown Court, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones accepted a submission by Andrew Fisher QC, defending, that there was no case for Jones to answer.

The court heard anti-social youngsters had been knocking on the door or windows of the house and then running off into the nearby park, chased by Mr Heathcote’s son or grandson.

But when Jones banged on the window on November 17, it was the pensioner who came out holding a broom which he swung at Jones, who dodged out of the way and laughed before re-joining his younger companions.

And as Mr Heathcote was going back inside, he collapsed and died as a result of arrhythmia leading to heart failure.

Mr Fisher submitted there was insufficient evidence on which Jones could be convicted of manslaughter, given the circumstances of the case.

Benjamin Amina QC, prosecuting, argued although Jones had not physically touched Mr Heathcote, he was responsible for his death by committing a public order offence.

But Judge Griffith-Jones said the ‘high water mark’ of the case was the statement of a 13-year-old boy who was present, and who said while Jones was laughing and pushing the broom away he never saw him hit or push Mr Heathcote.

Judge Griffith-Jones said Jones would have to had knowledge of Mr Heathcote’s heart condition for him to stand trail for manslaughter.

The judge concluded: “In order to prove manslaughter the prosecution must prove the killing is the result of the accused’s unlawful act, and the act must be one all sober and reasonable people must realise would subject the victim to some harm.

“Many of us may have wished to act in the same way to this irritating creature Jones, but it does not make it a public order offence that he remains at the scene and tries to get away from the intended blows with the broom.

“The unlawful act is the knocking at the window. Given what happened afterwards, when Mr Heathcote came out and swung the broom on a number of occasions, it is quite impossible to say that causation from the unlawful act caused the death.

“What sadly caused his death was his serious heart condition, something the prosecution do not suggest Mr Jones had any knowledge of.”

Jones faces further charges of witness intimidation and doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice – but those charges will not be put to him until the prosecution have had time to consider challenging the judge’s ruling.

Four teenagers were also in court accused of perverting the course of justice by giving false accounts to the police to conceal the fact that Jones had banged on the window.

Michelle Barron, 19, of Radford Road, Leamington, pleaded guilty, and her case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report.

Frankie McDonagh, 18, of Cherry Street, Warwick; Stephan Reilly, 18, of Willes Road, Leamington; and Paige Tomlinson, 18, of Mercia Way, Warwick, denied the charge and will stand trial in October.

All four were granted bail, but Jones was remanded in custody.