A thug has been jailed for eight years for killing a much-loved family man with a single punch outside a seaside pizza parlour.
Christopher Coakley, aged 28, of Palace Gardens, Clipstone, denied murdering 47-year-old Whitby man Anthony Welford but admitted manslaughter on the basis that there was no intent to kill.
Leeds Crown Court heard that Mr Welford, a father-of-three, was knocked to the ground and hit his head on the pavement following a blow from Coakley, outside the Porto Pizza takeaway in Whitby.
Prosecutor Katherine Robinson said Mr Welford, who was with friends, was acting as peacemaker and trying to calm Coakley down just moments before he was hit in the early hours of February 24.
But Coakley punched him in the face in the doorway. Mr Welford was knocked unconscious after banging his head and was bleeding profusely.
Despite lying motionless on the ground, Coakley was still trying to get to him and, according to one witness, even jumped on Mr Welford’s inert body. This claim was vehemently denied by the defence.
One of Mr Welford’s friends pulled Coakley off him and an ambulance was called.
Mr Welford was taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, where scans revealed a fractured skull and multiple bruises to his brain, as well as “and bleeding in the space surrounding his brain”.
His condition deteriorated and he developed brain damage, blood clots and pneumonia, then multiple organ failure.
He died on February 28, four days after the incident, from a blocked blood vessel in the lungs caused by “blunt head injury”.
Coakley was arrested at a guest house in Whitby where he was staying with his girlfriend during a short break.
He told police he was just having a bit of “banter” inside the takeaway and that he had acted in self-defence – a claim later rubbished in court.
Ms Robinson said that Mr Welford, a big sports fan, had been on a night out in Whitby with friends.
After leaving the pub, he and two of his friends went for a pizza at the takeaway in Windsor Terrace, where Coakley and his girlfriend, who had also been out drinking, were waiting for their food.
Coakley was said by witnesses to be “drunk, very loud, but in good spirits” initially, and was laughing and joking with others inside the takeaway.
But, his mood darkened and he became “aggressive, troublesome and sarcastic” with others, “saying that northern people were stupid and inbred”.
“He was… described by witnesses as being cocky, arrogant and looking for a fight,” said Ms Robinson. “He insulted the takeaway owner".
Mr Welford told Coakley to “calm down and be quiet” and was about to leave the takeaway when Coakley grabbed Mr Welford’s neck with his left hand “and swung a hard punch with his right, which connected with Mr Welford’s face”.
The court heard how Mr Welford, who had not been remotely aggressive, did not have time to block the blow and “fell immediately to the floor, hitting his head”.
“The defendant immediately attempted to continue the assault whilst Mr Welford was unconscious on the floor,” said Ms Robinson.
One Mr Welford’s friends then hit Coakley and pulled him away.
One witness said bare-chested Coakley was in an “absolute rage” and others said he was “bouncing around with his fists clenched, shouting “knock you out”.
Mr Welford was “bleeding from the mouth and there was a significant amount of blood on the floor”, said Ms Robinson.
Coakley then walked off with his girlfriend, who was with him in the takeaway and got in a taxi, but the driver told him to get out, prompting Coakley, to tell the taxi driver: “I’ll have you outside.”
He then swore at a group of friends sat on a bench and called them and everyone in Whitby where scum.
He walked up to one of the group and shouted in his face: “I’ve already knocked out of someone at the pizza shop. I’m not bothered.”
Coakley and his girlfriend got in another taxi near Whitby Railway Station but again the driver ordered Coakley to get out because of his aggressive behaviour.
He then cracked the windscreen of a car.
Coakley and his girlfriend went their separate ways and she eventually made her way back to the guest house in Hawsker, by which time her boyfriend had got into another cab, this time “teary and agitated” and calling his mother for help. When he arrived at the Lazy Days guest house at 1am and saw two police vans waiting for him, Coakley told the driver to turn around and take him back into town “as he didn’t want to go to prison”.
But the driver told him to hand himself in, and following another phone conversation with his mother, Coakley did so and was arrested. He then told officers: “I banged him”.
He claimed he had not intended to hurt Mr Welford and that “I didn’t hit him that hard… I’m not a boxer or nothing”.
Coakley, had previous convictions for violence and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal in 2016, when he was banned from keeping animals for life.
In January 2018, he was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence for battery and assaulting a police officer. In this incident, in December 2017, Coakley’s behaviour was so aggressive that his mother was pleading with police to taser him as he resisted arrest.
As part of the sentence for that offence, Coakley was placed on alcohol and anger-management courses in an attempt to rehabilitate him.
In statements read out in court, Mr Welford’s children Alison, Daniel and Christopher described their father as their “best mate” and that they would never get over their loss. He also leaves behind his partner Anthea.
Defence barrister Richard Littler QC claimed that Coakley, a father-of-one who works as a plasterer, had not intended to carry on the assault after Mr Welford fell to the ground and insisted there had been no jumping on the victim, or any attempt to do so.
Judge Guy Kearl QC, the Recorder of Leeds, said the attack was premeditated and that he had noted Coakley’s predisposition for violence.
Coakley was jailed for eight years but will be released into the community halfway through that sentence.