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12 December 2013, 16:41 | Updated: 12 December 2013, 16:43
A Biggleswade man has today been found guilty of manslaughter after he punched a man in an argument over a disabled car parking space at a local supermarket.
The jury at Luton Crown Court agreed unanimously that Alan Watts, 65, of Lindsell Crescent in Biggleswade, was responsible for the death of 64 year old Brian Holmes who died as a result of a serious head injury in the car park of Asda in Church Lane, Biggleswade, on Saturday August 3.
The court heard how Brian and his wife Christine had gone shopping in her car and parked in the disabled-only parking bays outside the store, her blue badge disability parking permit clearly on display. While she was in the store, Brian walked back to the car when he was spotted by Watts, who had arrived at Asda with his wife in their Range Rover.
Watts did not have a blue badge and was not eligible to park in the slot, but despite this, shouted abuse at Brian as he thought the other man appeared not to need a disabled space.
Brian, from Sandy, had been his wife’s carer and in fact had never held at a driving licence at all.
Watts had maintained throughout the trial that he had acted in self-defence, but the jury rejected his claim after seeing CCTV footage which showed Brian walking away from the incident before being punched twice to the head by Watts.
Brian – who days earlier had been given the all clear following extensive treatment for cancer – was taken by air ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge but died on Sunday August 4 as a result of his injuries.
Detective Inspector Liz Mead, from the Major Crime Unit, said Brian was a much-loved husband, father and grandfather who had only just started making plans with Christine for their future as the cloud of cancer had been lifted.
“This is a sharp and timely reminder for people to think before they act,” she said. “Watts’ actions mean he will now lose his liberty and be separated from his family. But our thoughts are focused on Brian’s family who have remained dignified throughout this harrowing process of putting the life of a very private man into the public arena through no fault of his own. They as a family should be celebrating a Christmas and looking forward to 2014 without the shackles of cancer, but instead they have an empty place which cannot be filled by the tragic and unnecessary death of Brian, a loving husband, best friend, carer, father, grandfather and a gentleman. Alan Watts was aware of his actions and the evidence against him at an early stage of this investigation but took up his right to trial, drawing out the court process and forcing Brian’s family to publically hear how their loved one was killed. I am therefore, pleased with the jury’s verdict today.” “Nothing can change the traumatic and tragic events of that sunny day in August when Brian and Christine were just out shopping. I hope that the Holmes family can take something from today as they attempt to rebuild their lives and future without their gentleman, Brian.”
Ruth Bowskill, Temporary Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This case involved the untimely death of 64-year-old Brian Holmes. Watts admitted punching Mr Holmes, but claimed that Mr Holmes was the aggressor and he punched him once in self defence. It was in fact Mr Holmes that was trying to defend himself from Watts’s violent outburst and the jury found Watts guilty of manslaughter despite his denials. This case shows how a moment of madness can change people’s lives forever and represents a tragedy for the family of Mr Holmes. The victim was attacked in a show of extraordinary violence in a car park after a petty argument with Watts. I would like to pay tribute to Mr Holmes’s family for their wholehearted support of this investigation and the dignity they have displayed while hearing the details of how he died. We have worked closely with Bedfordshire Police since this investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved. We know that nothing will bring Mr Holmes back to his family and friends, but we hope that today’s conviction and sentence brings them at least a small sense that justice has been done. Our thoughts are very much with them at this time.”