Tragic teenager Connor Saunders was slurring his speech shortly before he was fatally punched, a court was told yesterday (October 19).
The 19-year-old, a talented footballer and friend of X-Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza, suffered massive brain damage after being punched once outside Tesco Express in West Street, Rottingdean, on April 14 this year.
A 14-year-old boy from Brighton denies manslaughter.
Yesterday, a 14-year-old girl who witnessed the incident said that Connor – who Oliver Dunkin, prosecuting, said was “in drink” at the time of the assault – was stumbling over his words.
She spoke to him shortly before he was punched at about 10.50pm.
She said: “His [Connor’s] words were all jumbled. When he was walking it was like he was slipping.”
During police interviews 18 hours after the incident, the girl reported that Connor had said before being struck: “If you are going to hit me, hit me now.”
But yesterday she told Alan Kent, defending, that he did not say this.
She explained that after the police interview she realised she had made a mistake but was “too scared” to correct her statement.
She said yesterday: “I heard someone say it but I am not sure who it was. I do not know. I was hearing a lot of things.”
She said the situation was “confusing” as there was a lot going on.
Mr Kent also asked the girl about whether Connor, while in Tesco, patted a bald man on the head and said: “Alright baldy?” She said she had no knowledge of this.
Previously Mr Dunkin told jurors at Hove Crown Court the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, intervened in a “petty argument” between Connor and two younger boys over a thrown bottle.
He said that in a “tragic misunderstanding” Connor believed the bottle had been thrown by the younger boys when other people – including the girl – saw Sam Sutton, Connor’s friend, throw it.
The girl said Mr Sutton had himself punched one of the defendant’s friends during the night, although it was not specified when.
She said: “[The defendant’s friend] walked round and said he had just been punched in the face. He [Mr Sutton] was hugging him [the defendant’s friend] saying sorry.”
Mr Dunkin said the defendant “rolled up his sleeves” walked over to Connor and punched him. Connor died a day later in hospital in Brighton.
The defendant is remanded in the care of the local authority.
The trial continues.
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