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Monday, 23 November 2009

Tracy McConnell killing: Northfield man Jason D'Aguilar cleared of death

A picture of Mr D'Aguilar is unavailable.

From The Birmingham Mail

A BIRMINGHAM man has walked free from court after being cleared of killing father-of-two Tracy McConnell.

Prosecutors dropped a manslaughter case against Jason D’Aguilar after two experts gave contradicting medical evidence at his trial.

Mr McConnell, aged 46, died after being hit at the Fordrough pub in West Heath in March.

It was alleged that Mr D’Aguilar, 21, of Kingsdown Road, Northfield, had thrown the fatal punch after being heard to say he was going to “batter” the family man.

But a leading specialist said there was a possibility the victim died from other injuries received during a night of violence at the pub.

After leaving the dock, Mr D’Aguilar said in a statement issued through his solicitor that he had acted in self defence. After the not guilty verdict was reached by a judge, Mr McConnell’s grieving family said they feared they would never achieve justice.

“We won’t rest until the police are prepared to say there is nothing more they can do,” said the dead man’s brother Dan McConnell, aged 58.

“Do I think we will get justice? Probably not, because the system has let us down so badly.

“How is Tracy’s wife supposed to tell her children that nobody has been punished for what happened to him that night?”

The case unravelled at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday after three days of evidence from medical professionals.

Peter Grieves-Smith, prosecuting, said the case against Mr D’Aguilar was based on the fact that he struck the fatal blow to Mr McConnell and it was clear the accused threw the final punch before the victim collapsed.

But brain injuries expert Dr Daniel du Plessis stated that Mr McConnell could have been killed by the first of two punches captured on CCTV or even by an attack as he tried to split up fighting earlier in the evening.

The evidence contradicted that of Home Office pathologist Stephen Wills, who said he was sure the final punch had been the cause of a brain haemorrhage which killed Mr McConnell.

Referring to Dr du Plessis’ evidence, Mr Grieves-Smith said: “It suggests the possibility that a blow preceding the D’Aguilar blow was responsible.

“It’s clear the evidence from Daniel du Plessis makes it impossible for a jury to reach a conclusion that the blow by Jason D’Aguilar was responsible. The failure of the prosecution is another burden for the family to bear but we have to ensure any conviction is based on sound evidence.”

The jury was discharged from reaching a verdict in respect of Mr D’Aguilar before Judge Melbourne Inman QC formally cleared him.

Speaking for Mr D’Aguilar, solicitor Errol Robinson said: “This was absolutely the right verdict.

“Contrary to previous accounts, Mr D’Aguilar was the peacemaker in this incident and in his account struck a single blow in self-defence. Mr D’Aguilar regrets the tragedy that occurred.”

A second man, Billy Casey, 20, whose address was previously withheld by the court, pleaded guilty to assault.

He will be sentenced along with Mr McConnell’s nephew, Matthew McConnell, 26, of Longlands, West Heath, who admitted affray, at a later date.

The builder died in hospital in the early hours of March 21.

He left behind a wife, Sharon, and daughters Shannon, aged nine, and Amelia, five.

Mr McConnell’s sister, Ingrid Fisher, aged 44, said she believed more people should have been in the dock after CCTV footage played in court appeared to show several men attacking her brother.

She also criticised police after they only produced enhanced CCTV of Mr McConnell being knocked to the ground after the trial had begun.

Judge Inman refused a request by the prosecution to have the film used during the case.

“The case ending like this makes it feel as though Tracy has been killed all over again,” she said. “My parents are 76 and I fear they will go to their graves without seeing justice done for Tracy.”

Two of Mr McConnell’s brothers were jailed for 15 months each last month for taking part in a revenge attack on two men said to have been involved in the fighting at the Fordrough.

Police were granted emergency powers to close the pub in the wake of the killing.

Detective Inspector Richard Mayhew said: “It’s fair to say that we will examine what evidence we have in respect of Jason D’Aguilar and others.

“The investigation would have been easier had people been more willing to say what they had seen and heard.”


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