A MAN who punched his friend, who then later died from multiple brain injuries, has walked free from court.
Sam Houghton, 26, admitted punching David Roper but was cleared of his manslaughter at Chester Crown Court.
Mr Roper's injuries were so bad he returned to his Runcorn home the following morning vomiting blood. Mr Houghton did not call the emergency services.
A friend of Mr Roper's, Dennis Buchanan, gave evidence that Houghton had rung him after the incident saying: 'I think I've killed him. He's been texting Sam. I had £500 in an account to get rid of him, but now I've done it myself.'
Mr Houghton denied this, although he said that he had talked to Mr Buchanan and told him that Mr Roper was asleep after hitting him. Mr Houghton said Mr Buchanan had told him that Mr Roper would probably be all right and would wake up eventually.
Prosecuting solicitor Michael Chambers told the court how Mr Houghton had been drinking with Mr Roper, whose parents live at Godstow, Sandymoor.
Before the 26-year-old died, the pair had attended The Drum and Monkey pub with a group of friends in Comberbach on February 28 this year.
Mr Chambers said that Mr Houghton had dropped some friends off in the evening, before driving Mr Roper towards Stockton Heath.
Giving evidence, Mr Houghton, of Manor Farm, Back Lane, Higher Whitley, told the court that he wanted to confront Mr Roper about his possible relationship with an exgirlfriend called Samantha.
He had pulled over the car in Old Lane between Northwich and Run-corn, and the two men had got out.
Mr Houghton said: 'There was an awkward silence in the car. We were all right when there were other people about, but it was awkward when it was just the two of us.
'I said to him: 'We need to sort this out'. I got upset and wanted to get out of the car. I pulled over and got out. He got out too and apologised.
'I remember being pushed backwards against the car and then I pushed back. He swung for me, grazed my chin. I swung back and we both fell on the floor.'
Although, at first, Mr Houghton told police that the two men had got up and got back in the car after apologising to each other, he later admitted, in an interview, that Mr Roper had been knocked unconscious - and that he had had to lift him into the car.
Mr Houghton told the court Mr Roper had apparently woken up half an hour to an hour later and seemed fine, except for complaining of a sore head, and having a bloody nose.
Prosecuting, Mr Chambers contended, however, that Mr Roper hadn't woken up at all from the moment of the fight to the time Mr Houghton left him in his bed at his second home in Barnton at 8am.
The next morning Mr Roper had driven himself to his parents' home in Runcorn, where his father had found him confused and bleeding from his ear, sitting in the front seat of his car. He was then taken inside, where he began to vomit blood.
Following the attack, Mr Roper later died at Walton Hospital on March 9 of severe brain injuries which included swelling, bruising and bleeding on the brain. He also had a fractured skull.
Mr Houghton told the court he was 'devastated' about what happened and admitted he had lied to police because he hadn't realised the seriousness of his condition.
The jury took under an hour to find Mr Houghton not guilty of Mr Roper's manslaughter.