A “tragic misunderstanding” over a thrown beer bottle led to Connor Saunders’ death, a court was told.
Talented footballer Connor was punched once by a 14-year-old boy outside a Tesco Express store in West Street, Rottingdean, shortly before 11pm on April 14, this year, a jury of nine women and three men at Hove Crown Court were told yesterday (October 17).
Oliver Dunkin, opening the case for the prosecution, said Connor, who was 19 at the time, went down “like a domino” after being punched once. He never regained consciousness and died early the next morning at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The 14-year-old accused of punching him – who cannot be named for legal reasons – denies Connor’s manslaughter.
Mr Dunkin said the defendant intervened in a “petty argument” between his friends – who were also in their early teens – and Connor over a thrown bottle.
The two groups – Connor’s friends and the defendant’s friends – were both hanging around the store but prior to the incident there had been no animosity between them.
Mr Dunkin said this changed when Connor believed the defendant’s |friends had thrown a Budweiser bottle at him, although in all likelihood it was Connor’s friend – Sam Sutton – who threw it as an “idiotic” joke.
The court heard how after it smashed next to Connor and another shopper – who witnesses said dropped her shopping in shock – the 19-year-old got into an argument with two of the defendant’s friends.
The jury were told that they called the defendant over and the punch was thrown, leading to Connor’s death.
Afterwards witnesses described the defendant “rolling up his sleeves” and walking off before subsequently running away.
Mr Dunkin said: “There was a brief eruption of anger as a result of a tragic misunderstanding by Connor Saunders.
“The awful truth is the bottle was probably thrown as a prank by one of his friends.
“The defendant became involved and delivered a haymaker punch.”
He added that Connor “fell like a domino”.
“He never regained consciousness,” he continued.
“He died of massive brain damage due to his fall to the ground.
“It was a single punch with devastating results.
“He [the defendant] did not intend to kill.
“He did not intend to cause really serious harm. But he did intend to cause harm.”
Mr Dunkin said the defendant was not acting in self-defence.
He added: “There was no need for the defendant to hit Connor Saunders at all.
“He got himself involved in someone else’s petty argument.”
After the incident Mr Dunkin said the defendant, wearing beige trousers and a grey jumper in the dock, ran away. But he was discovered by police hiding in woodland about half-an-hour later.
He was arrested and taken to a police station where he was interviewed.
He told police he believed Connor had been going to “attack his friends”.
The boy denies a count of manslaughter.
He is in the custody of the local authority.
The trial continues.