Mum praises ‘lovely’ son after VII death verdict

Joe Williams died on August 19

Joe Williams died on August 19 - Credit: Archant

A WESTON mum has described her pain at hearing how her ‘lovely’ son died outside a town centre nightclub, as witnesses disagreed whether the bouncer used excessive force to eject him.

Joe Williams died in hospital four days after suffering ‘non-survivable injuries’ when his head hit the pavement outside VII bar in Princes Royal Square, an inquest was told this week.

The coroner ruled Mr Williams’ death was neither an ‘unlawful killing’ nor an ‘accidental death’, because of conflicting witness accounts.

Mother Lin Williams, supported by family and Mr Williams’ girlfriend Vicky Evans, said it was difficult to come face-to-face with bouncer Chris Manning for the first time this week.

She said: “I was disappointed but I understand why it was that verdict.

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“Joe was lovely. He wasn’t a party animal, in fact he hardly ever went out.

“He had settled down with Vicky and they had a dog. He enjoyed sports but really was just a regular 23-year-old.”

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His death sparked a flurry of supportive messages on the Mercury’s Facebook site last August, something Mrs Williams said was of great comfort.

She said: “His friends have been amazing. They all came to see him in the hospital and at Joe’s funeral there were 400 people there.”

An emotional Mrs Williams left Flax Bourton Coroners’ Court while bouncer Mr Manning recounted the events leading up to her son’s death.

The inquest was told Mr Williams drank alcohol and took a small amount of cocaine after attending a wedding with friends on August 18.

In the early hours of the following morning he became embroiled in a heated exchange with Samuel Sweeting and the pair were asked to leave the club by head bouncer Stuart Cox.

Mr Manning said he placed his shoulder and arm behind Mr Williams and led him outside via the bar’s terrace.

Several eyewitnesses told the two-day inquest that Mr Manning used force to ‘throw’ Mr Williams onto the pavement.

Claire Thawley, who was standing just outside the bar’s terrace, said: “There was no struggle. That’s why I was so surprised when he was dropped.

“Mr Manning just lifted his arms away. I wouldn’t say there was a push involved, but there was just no compassion.

“He fell near enough on his head and then his body slumped to the side. I heard the noise. I went running over and he had blood running from his nose and mouth.

“It definitely wasn’t acceptable what happened. I wouldn’t say he was chucked out but he threw him out. I didn’t think it was responsible at all.

“I was shocked, disgusted and amazed. There was absolutely no need. It was a vicious act and one he should be held accountable for.”

Fellow drinker Abby Selwood said: “I believe he was pushed. The force he hit the ground with, I thought, was quite a lot considering he wasn’t really mobile.”

Other eyewitnesses said Mr Manning did not use any aggression in removing Mr Williams.

Bouncer Rafal Rutkowski, who was manning the gates from the terrace to the pavement, said: “I’m very clear. Chris didn’t push him. There was no physical push, punch or shove.”

Passer-by Jonathan Clark agreed that Mr Manning had not used ‘overt force’ or an ‘aggressive push’.

Mr Manning said he did not push Mr Williams, who had tried to resist being escorted out of the bar and swore at the bouncer.

He told the court he believed Mr Williams was sober enough to balance when he released his grip on him.

But he did not see how Mr Williams fell because he had turned around to help fellow bouncer Mr Cox remove Mr Sweeting after the pair had stumbled.

He added: “I started to make my way back towards the club when I heard a thud. I hadn’t heard anything like it before.”

On hearing Mr Williams’ skull crack, Mr Manning said he checked on the dazed but conscious 23-year-old who told him to ‘f*** off’ and tried to slap him.

Paramedics took Mr Williams him to hospital as he drifted in and out of consciousness.

Pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said Mr Williams died after suffering a ‘non-survivable’ head injury.

Mr Williams, of Milton Brow, had alcohol the equivalent of twice the drink drive limit in his blood and a small quantity of cocaine.

Coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said the differing eyewitness accounts meant he could not be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Williams had been ‘unlawfully killed’ or his death was a ‘tragic accident’ - verdicts put forward by the family’s and Mr Manning’s lawyers respectively.

He said witnesses’ differing levels of intoxication and viewpoints contributed to their conflicting opinions.

Recording a narrative verdict, he said: “Joseph Williams died of a head injury sustained after falling during the course of being moved from a nightclub.”

Mrs Williams thanked David Bird for representing the family at the inquest.

Mr Manning was arrested by police hours after the incident but no charges were brought against him.

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