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24 April 2015, 17:27
A Hertfordshire pub landlord's been cleared by a jury of killing an old friend when they were on their way to a wedding reception.
John Harrington, 51, said he and Terry Hutchinson had been indulging in "horseplay" on their way to the reception at West Herts Golf Club near Watford in May last year.
But he denied he had deliberately punched the 64 year old victim who died from head injuries after striking his head on the ground three days later.
Harrington, of High Street, Redbourn, Herts, was charged with manslaughter but on Friday a jury at Luton Crown Court found him not guilty. The jury of four men and eight woman took five hours to reach their verdict.
The two men, who had been drinking during the day were messing about in the golf club car park when a friend, David Say, stepped in and told them to stop acting like children. But, shortly afterwards, Mr Hutchinson ended up on the tarmac, suffering a traumatic brain injury. He was treated at the scene and was taken to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where he died three days later on May 27 last year.
The defendant told the jury: "I think I slapped him. Terry was a friend - I wouldn't have punched him."
Opening the case earlier in the week, prosecutor Robert O'Sullivan QC said: "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," said Mr O'Sullivan
He said Mr Hutchinson was a local man who had moved to Thailand in 2008, where he had married. In May last year he was back in the area, visiting family and friends. He had been drinking in the Red Lion in Bushey, before being driven at 5pm to the defendant's then pub, The Bull in Redbourn.
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 John Harrington's extended family were attending a wedding reception.
In the witness box John Harrington 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 first met Terry Hutchinson. They played snooker together and Mr Hutchinson taught him to play golf.
"We have been very good friends. 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 would put his finger in his drink and then put it in your ears to make you spill your drink. He thought that was funny. I used to do it back to him to get my own back. There was no animosity. It was just us behaving as children," he said.
He said he was "elated" to see Terry Hutchinson when he came back from Thailand. They drank in the Bull, where the jury was told the defendant had downed 10 pints of lager and four Bacardi and cokes.