Former Redbourn pub owner cleared of friend’s manslaughter

West Herts Golf Club

West Herts Golf Club - Credit: Archant

A jury has cleared a pub owner of killing an old friend while they were engaged in “horseplay” when they were on their way to a wedding reception at a golf club.

John Harrington, 51, of High Street, Redbourn, appeared in Luton Crown Court last week after being accused of killing his friend with a single punch to the face.

Terry Hutchinson, 64, who lived in Thailand, died from head injuries at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington on May 27 last year.

It was alleged that Mr Harrington struck Mr Hutchinson in the face, knocking him straight to the tarmac of the West Herts Golf Club, near Watford, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Last Friday (24) Mr Harrington, who had denied deliberately punching his friend, was found not guilty of manslaughter.

The jury of four men and eight women took five hours to reach their verdict.

During the trial Luton Crown Court was told that there was no obvious reason for the assault but the two men had been drinking heavily before they were taken to a wedding reception at the club at 11pm on May 24.

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Prosecutor Robert O’Sullivan said: “What may have started out as drunken high spirits concluded with the defendant assaulting Mr Hutchinson with such force he went to the ground immediately and did not get up.

“Mr Harrington did not intend to kill Terry Hutchinson. He is charged with manslaughter. The prosecution say he deliberately and unlawfully assaulted Mr Hutchinson and that assault was a significant cause of his death.”

He told the jury that pathologist Dr Nat Carey found the victim had suffered a fracture to his nose consistent with a severe impact such as a full fist blow.

Mr O’Sullivan said that Mr Hutchinson, who suffered a heart condition, was a local man who had moved to Thailand in 2008, where he had married.

In May last year he returned to the area for a holiday, visiting friends and family.

He had been drinking in the Red Lion in Bushey before being driven at 5pm to The Bull in Redbourn, owned at the time by Mr Harrington.

They drank at the pub before the two men and another friend, who had joined them, were taken to the golf club in Watford where members of Mr Harrington’s extended family were attending a wedding reception.

Mr O’Sullivan said that there had been “fair bit of banter” between the friends on the way to the reception.

They had been messing about in the golf club car park when a friend stepped in and them to stop acting like children.

Mr Harrington said he had drunk 10 pints and four large Bacardis, and that Mr Hutchinson had drunk the same amount of liquor.

He added that he had been kicked twice by Mr Hutchinson during horseplay, with one blow striking him in the testicles.

When questioned by the police, Mr Harrington said: “I think I slapped him. I don’t think I punched him. It was an open hand, not a fist. It was a playful slap.”

In the witness box, the Redbourn man said he had been a publican for 25 years. He has sold The Bull and now runs a pub in Watford.

When he was a steward at West Watford Conservative Club, he had first met Mr Hutchinson. They had played snooker together and Mr Hutchinson taught him to play golf.

Mr Harrington added: “Terry was a very close friend of mine. He had a very unique nature. Nine times out of ten he would be winding me up.”

He told the jury he was “absolutely devastated” at the death of his friend.