MURDER charges have been dropped over the killing of a dad-to-be whose head “cracked like an egg” as he fell after being punched in a drunken street attack.
Two men originally charged with the murder of soldier Robert Pears (25), have now pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Ben Wesley (23), who landed the punch on Mr Pears, pleaded guilty to manslaughter while the other attacker David Chadwick (22), who kicked or stamped on his head, admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The murder charge against Chadwick was reduced to assault at Sheffield Crown Court this week after doctors decided that Mr Pears probably died from massive head injuries caused when his head struck the pavement.
Chadwick kicked or stamped on Mr Pears after he had been knocked to the ground by Wesley outside the Boy and Barrel pub in Mexborough.
Wesley pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter after admitting landing a single punch on Mr Pears after he and friends went on an all-day drinking session.
Mr Pears, whose girlfriend gave birth ten days’ later, had his life support machine turned off in hospital the day after the 3am attack last August in which he sustained “catastrophic brain injuries.”
Wesley, of Manvers Road, Mexborough, and Chadwick, also from Mexborough, will be sentenced next month.
The court heard that doctors could not determine whether Mr Pears had already suffered fatal injuries before he was stamped on or the extent to which the kick contributed to his death.
Alistair MacDonald, prosecuting, said that Mr Pears was knocked to the ground by a single punch from Wesley followed almost immediately by a kick or stamp from Chadwick.
Witnesses differed in their accounts of what happened, some saying they saw Chadwick stamp or kick Mr Pears, others saying that he was nowhere near the scene.
“The prosecution cannot prove that the kick or stamp did have a substantial cause in the death of Mr Pears,” Mr MacDonald said.
He added: “I fully accept that when a case begins as murder it seems odd that these pleas are acceptable.”
Judge Roger Keen QC said that it was an “inevitable conclusion.”
Afterwards, Det Insp Steve Whittaker, accepted that it was the right outcome in the circumstances.
But he said that it was a prime example of drink-fuelled nights out resulting in violence after a melee broke out with up to 20 people milling about outside the pub.
He said: “Some witnesses said that when Mr Pears hit the ground his head cracked like an egg.
“It seems that’s what killed him. He may have already been dead when he was kicked.”
After the attack Wesley and Chadwick were captured on CCTV laughing, giving each other a high five and re-enacting the fight. Wesley is seen kissing both biceps, although this is disputed.
Det Insp Whittaker added: “Not once has either of them shown any remorse.
“This was a vicious attack that leaves a daughter growing up without a father.”