The father of a young footballer who died after being punched in the street has spoken of his pain that the teenager accused of killing him was found not guilty.

Shaun Saunders says he hopes one day fresh evidence will be found for police to reinvestigate the death of his 19-year-old son Connor.

And he is pledging that the family will keep Connor’s good name alive with a legacy of lifesaving fundraising activity.

Connor was punched in West Street, Rottingdean, while on a night out with friends on April 14 this year.

When a bottle was thrown in the street, he blamed two younger boys from a different group. They called their friend over, who punched him.

He was fatally injured when his head hit the ground and he died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital the next day.

A 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was accused of Connor’s manslaughter but was found not guilty after a three-week trial earlier this month. He admitted hitting Connor but said he acted in self-defence.

Mr Saunders said the family left Hove Crown Court “in bits”.

Sussex Police confirmed only “significant fresh evidence” would lead to the reopening of the case.

Mr Saunders said: “We’ll never give up hope.”

Charity foundation

He said the jury were told Connor was older and taller than the defendant and had been drinking, but did not hear about how he lived his life.

He said: “The jury should have been able to know what sort of person Connor was,” adding: “There are people out there who could have described him so at least they’d know that Connor wasn’t a bad kid.”

The family, of Downsway, Woodingdean, is channelling its energies into the Connor Saunders Foundation – set up to promote the saving of life.

It was inspired by Connor’s decision, aged 16, to become an organ donor. A ten-month-old baby became the sixth recipient of Connor’s organs when one of his heart valves was used in a transplant operation.

The foundation has also provided defibrillators for football matches, and is backing a project to build a sports court named in Connor’s memory.

Continuing legacy

Mr Saunders said: “We want to make a difference because of how Connor was in his nature. It is important for us to carry on his legacy as a good person.”

The family were due to meet police today (November 23) to receive the clothes Connor wore the night he died, held as evidence.

They have requested CCTV footage used in court, because it showed him happy and smiling minutes before he died.

A fundraising drive to build “Connor’s Court” – a multi-sports facility for young people on the seafront in Rottingdean – begins next week.

A CD of songs in tribute to Connor goes on sale at an event at the White Horse Hotel in Marine Drive at 7pm on Thursday, November 29.

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