A drunk Millwall football thug has been jailed for two years for punching a rival fan who later died – because he got “p*ssed off” with his banter.
Andrew Lewis, 50, attacked dad-of-two Paul O’Donnell on the opening day of the Championship season at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.
A court heard he had drank seven pints of beer before hitting pipe fitter Mr O’Donnell, 57, in a car park outside the stadium before kick-off.
He admitted he was having “good natured banter” with rival fans but got “p*ssed off” with Mr O’Donnell’s taunts.
Two weeks later Mr O’Donnell, known as ‘Ducksy’, fell down the stairs at his home in New Balderton near Newark, Nottinghamshire, and died in hospital on August 23.
Lewis, of Bromley, south east London, was today (Wed) found not guilty of manslaughter at Leicester Crown Court but admitted grievous bodily harm.
Jailing him for two years, Judge Gregory Dickinson QC said: “You approached Mr O’Donnell and he was looking away and did not see the blow coming, he was knocked unconscious and paramedics took him to hospital.
“There it was found he had a serious skull fracture and bleeding on the brain.
“In interview you expressed your shock at the injury and remorse at what happened.
“The fall down the stairs may well have had nothing to do with the injury caused by you, the expert have advised that it is simply not possible to tell and that is why the prosecution offered no evidence in the charge of manslaughter.
“This was an aggressive act and the man had no means of defending himself as he was looking away.
“But this was a single punch and I accept you had not intended to cause him serious harm.”
The court heard Lewis lashed out at Mr O’Donnell during “banter” with rival fans.
Prosecutor Miranda Moore QC said: “Mr Lewis had walked towards Mr O’Donnell, at this point Mr Lewis punched Mr O’Donnell with his right fist connecting with Mr O’Donnell’s head.
“He fell to the floor.
“He approached him because the deceased was shouting ‘West Ham’ at him.
“He said the man had ‘p*ssed him off’.”
“Mr O’Donnell was put in an ambulance and was completely disorientated where they took him to the Queen’s Medical Centre.
“At the centre it was recorded that he had a blood clot and a longitudinal fracture and other knock on effects from the blow.
“He was discharged from hospital on August 7, 2017.
“After that his partner Beverley said he was not himself and lost over a stone in weight, he felt permanently sick because of the pressure in his head and was suffering from memory problems and was essentially bed ridden.
“Whilst out celebrating a Kimberley’s birthday on August 17 he had an accident [fell down some stairs] where he died a few days afterwards.
“Before the game Mr Lewis described himself as ‘jolly’ and was in a good mood and said he was having good natured banter with the Nottingham Forest fans apart from the one that said he had a chip on his shoulder.”
The court heard Lewis has a string of convictions for alcohol-fuelled violence.
Matthew Sharratt QC, defending, said: “He attended Nottingham Football Club and was in drink.
“Outside the ground he had an argument with Mr O’Donnell, at that stage they were both giving as good as they got but this is not an excuse – he should never have punched Mr O’Donnell and he showed remorse in the police interview.
“Mr Lewis had seven pints before the game.
“It was simply one punch and he was arrested immediately.
“He is someone who lives a conservative and quiet life and wants to be a good role model to his son.”
Lewis was also banned from attending football matches for six years.
Mr O’Donnell is the first fan to die in football-related violence for six years.
In September 2011 Wales fan Michael Dye, 44, of Cardiff, died after being punched outside Wembley at a Euro 2012 qualifier.
England fan Ian Mytton, 41, a dad of three of Redditch, Worcs., was sentenced to three years for manslaughter.
Gillingham fan Barry Cullen, 31, was jailed for the manslaughter of Fulham supporter Matthew Fox, 24, at a home game in 1998.
Ian Hambridge, 15, died when a wall collapsed on him during clashes between Birmingham and Leeds fans at St Andrews in 1985, the same day as the Bradford fire.