A 14-year-old boy accused of killing Connor Saunders said the talented footballer was holding a bottle and saying “come on” before he was fatally punched.

The schoolboy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he hit Connor because he believed that he, or one of his friends, would be attacked.

He told jurors at Hove Crown Court that Connor pressed his forehead against his and said “come on”, leading to the defendant pushing and subsequently punching him.

He said he was surprised that Connor fell straight to the ground, slamming his head on the pavement and suffering fatal brain injuries.

Giving evidence, the boy said he was outside Tesco Express in West Street, Rottingdean, shortly before 11pm on April 14 this year when he saw “a really tall person having a go” at his friend.

He said he went over and the “tall person” – Connor – said, “I do not want you, I want you,” pointing at the defendant.

The boy told jurors he passed a bottle he was holding to his friend before the punch.

Asked if he thought there was going to be a fight he said: “I thought there might be. I was not sure there was going to be.”

He said Connor was angry but he did not “plan to hit him”.

Attack fear

“His face was really close and then his face touched mine.

“I remember Connor saying, ‘Come on’.

“He had a deep voice, it was aggressive.

“He had his head against mine so I pushed him and then I punched him.”

The schoolboy told the court he thought “he was going to get attacked or my friends were”.

He said: “He [Connor] was holding a green bottle. I thought someone was going to get hit.

“I don’t think I hit him as hard as I could have hit.

“I did not expect him to fall in the way he did – I was shocked.

“I put my hands on my face and walked away.”

The defendant ran in the direction of Brighton and hid in woodland where he was found by police and arrested.

He was subsequently charged with manslaughter, a charge he denies.

The trial continues.

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