AN assault victim suffered catastrophic and inoperable brain injuries after "dropping like a stone" when he was punched in the street, a jury was told yesterday.

Mark Hurren was said to have been minding his own business when he was attacked by Wayne Spanswick close to Middlesbrough town centre last summer.

The 40-year-old victim lay unconscious for some time before coming around, but was "confused and disorientated" and his speech was slurred, the jury heard.

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Prosecutor Nicholas Lumley, QC, told Teesside Crown Court that Mr Hurren later collapsed at the nearby home of a friend and was rushed to hospital.

Specialists deemed that the injuries - a fracture to his skull and bleeding on the brain - were so bad that there was nothing they could do to save Mr Hurren's life.

Mr Spanswick, 41, of St Aidan's Drive, Middlesbrough, denies a charge of manslaughter, and faces a trial which is expected to last at least for eight days.

The jury of seven women and five men saw grainy closed circuit television camera footage of the day-time attack in Parliament Road on August 25.

Mr Lumley said Mr Hurren fell backwards and "cracked his head very firmly" against the road before concerned Mr Spanswick checked on his condition.

After arriving at his friend's home, the victim was taken to a bedroom, but was later found at the bottom of the stairs after an apparent tumble.

The defendant - although initially telling the police he had nothing to do with the assault - is expected to claim he did not cause the injuries.

Mr Lumley told the jury: "The prosecution, let us be clear, do not say Mr Spanswick intended to kill Mr Hurren - otherwise the charge would be murder.

"Instead, we say it was Mr Spanswick's unlawful act, his punch, which caused the death, therefore, manslaughter is the appropriate charge.

"We say it contributed to the death, and we use that word because this case is a little unusual in that it seems after Mr Hurren was assaulted in that way, in the street, his head may well have suffered further accidental trauma.

"It will be for you to resolve the evidence and decide whether you are satisfied so as you are sure that the assault was a cause of death.

"If Mr Spanswick, with his unlawful actions, contributed to the death, then he is guilty of manslaughter."

The trial continues.