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A man who killed his colleague with a single punch to the jaw at a work Christmas party in Harlow has been cleared of manslaughter.
A trial at Chelmsford Crown Court had heard how IT worker Bradley Casey hit project manager William Wareham, 53, following an argument over taxis outside the Park Inn Hotel in Harlow.
Jurors returned a verdict of not guilty to a single count of manslaughter on Friday, following four days of evidence.
Casey had told the court there had been a good atmosphere at the festive party until a group decided to get a taxi into town to continue drinking at around midnight on December 12 2015.
The 21-year-old said trouble flared when the taxi he ordered had not arrived, and he said Mr Wareham jabbed a cigarette stub into his mouth.
He said his actions had been "instinctive" and that he was acting in self-defence.
A post-mortem examination showed Mr Wareham died on December 13th of a head injury, with bruising to the back of his head consistent with a heavy fall backwards accelerated by the force of a punch.
Both men worked for Bupa, had been colleagues for around six months and got on well professionally, the court heard.
Casey, currently of Castle Street, Thetford, and formerly of Cheshunt, said the incident "all happened in a matter of seconds".