The late Kevin Kelly
A hard working, 27-year-old Kilkenny man who was involved in a row after a night out in Luton died after a “devastating punch” to his jaw.
London-born Kevin Kelly died after being attacked in the early hours of May 1, 2016 along Upper George Street, Luton.
Mr Kelly from Goresbridge had been living in Luton for four years and ran his own plastering business.
Richard Wood, 24, who is accused of throwing the fatal punch, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter at Luton Crown Court. Opening proceedings, prosecutor Peter Shaw said that Mr Wood threw “a series of punches, one of which proved to be fatal”. He described it as a “devastating punch” and said a postmortem found the cause of the father-of-one’s death to be a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage.
Mr Kelly fell heavily face down onto the ground, not even putting his hands out to break his fall, the court heard. Prosecutor Mr Shaw said Kevin suffered bleeding on the brain caused by the impact of the blow to his left jaw, causing a sudden rotation of his head and neck, which caused arteries at the base of his skull to tear. Mr Shaw explained that a sudden jet of blood over the “critical brain structures” had led to Mr Kelly suffering a cardiac arrest from which he never recovered. The jury was told Mr Kelly had drunk “a few pints” on a night out socialising in Luton before he left the After 8 nightclub at about 5am. Judge Michael Kay QC heard he was walking home along Upper George Street when he encountered Mr Wood and a friend travelling in the opposite direction.
“There was an exchange of words between Mr Kelly and Mr Wood as they passed. Whatever was said Mr Kelly threw a punch at Mr Wood. It was followed by Wood throwing several punches towards Kelly,” said Mr Shaw.
He said that “six or seven punches” were exchanged before “Mr Kelly fell face first to the ground without, tellingly, putting his hand out to stop or break his fall”.
Police officers arrived quickly to the scene to find that the Irishman had stopped breathing and immediately set about trying to resuscitate him.
These efforts by police to resuscitate Mr Kelly proved “fruitless” and later that day doctors treating him in hospital declared him brain dead and his life support was switched off.
The court was told that Mr Wood left the scene after the attack, but was arrested a short time later. He told police it was Mr Kelly who had attacked him first and he was acting in self-defence.
Jordan Jones, a friend who was walking with Mr Wood in Upper George Street that morning, said as they walked towards Mr Kelly he was “staring at us”.
He said that Mr Wood asked Mr Kelly “what are you looking at?” and alleges it was then that Mr Kelly approached him and threw a punch.
Mr Jordan, who took no part in the fight that morning, said he thought a total of around 10 punches were thrown between the men but admitted it could been have seven or eight.
He said that many were not “clean punches” but that the fatal punch was thrown by Mr Wood landing on Mr Kelly’s face.
Mr Jordan added that he quickly left the scene as bystanders thought he had been involved in the altercation.
A hard worker, Kevin Kelly was born in London at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, in 1988.
The family moved to Kilkenny when Mr Kelly was seven and he completed his schooling there.
The young plasterer moved to Luton in 2012 to set up his own business and had traveled in both Australia and California.
Although based primarily in Luton, Mr Kelly used to make monthly trips home to Ireland to visit his young son Gerrard, now six. Mr Wood, who now lives in London Road, Bognor Regis, maintains that he acted against Mr Kelly in self-defence. The case continues today.