LATEST: Man found guilty of manslaughter

A BOXER from County Durham is accused of murdering a 31-year-old man after punching him outside a pub, a court has heard.

Nathan Robbie Buckland, of Lumley Close, Newton Aycliffe denies the murder of Iain Lee, who died on September 19 last year, 11 days after being assaulted.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that Mr Buckland, who is a boxer and is interested in mixed martial arts, had punched Mr Lee, also from Newton Aycliffe, during an altercation outside The Roundhouse pub, which is in the town's Thames House.

Mr Lee suffered a brain injury and skull fracture after being punched to the ground.

Toby Hedworth, QC, prosecuting, said: "Nathan Buckland was someone who knew how to punch and the consequences of such a punch."

He added: "This is someone who knows the power of the punch and using his fists outside the boxing ring could have very, very serious results.

"Drink had been taken, but that is no excuse in law."

Mr Lee had been socialising with a friend, Scott Hilton, on the night of Friday, September 7 and ended up at The Roundhouse, where Mr Buckland was also drinking.

Mr Lee is thought to have had between ten and 15 pints, and was described as being "obviously drunk".

The court heard that prior to the fatal incident, there had been an altercation between Mr Hilton and another man outside the pub.

Mr Hilton, who said there had been an "atmosphere" at the pub that night, admitted to the court he had punched the other man.

Mr Hilton and Mr Lee were then told they would not be readmitted to the pub by door man Adam Gilmore, who had witnessed the incident.

The Northern Echo:

The Roundhouse pub, in Newton Aycliffe

He said: "They were leaving quietly at first and they came back about five or ten minutes later. They were banging on the windows."

He added: "I believe they wanted to finish some unfinished business."

Mr Lee was described as being "boisterous", while Mr Gilmore added that he was standing about 150 yards from the pub, in a "fighting stance".

He says Nathan Buckland ran past him and the pair were "squaring up" to each other.

"Iain was trying to swing a few blows but nothing was connecting," he added.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of what happened, which Mr Hedworth says shows Mr Lee being pursued by Mr Buckland.

He said: "The defendant ran at Iain Lee and felled him with a punch that sent him straight back to the road.

"He followed up with another couple of blows while Iain Lee was stricken on the ground."

Robert Woodcock, QC, defending, said it was Mr Lee who had been the aggressor.

He said: "The defendant, as the prosecution has made clear, denies murder.

“He will seek to establish, far from being his enemy, he was his friend.

“The defence case is that the deceased was the aggressor and was intent on further violence.

The defendant pursued the deceased not to attack him, but to appease him. When he caught up with him, it was he and not the defendant who was the aggressor.

“He did no more than he thought, in the heat of the moment, was necessary.”

The court heard evidence from a number of witnesses to various parts of the incident.

Jurors were told that Mr Buckland, who was described as being "panicky" after the punch, had been heard saying "I think I've killed him, haven't I".

Another witness described the defendant as "hyped" and said she had heard Mr Buckland say "one punch and he's down", shortly after the incident.

She said: "He didn't seem himself. He was very hyped. Normally he's a chilled back guy but he seemed different that night.

"He was acting like a big head, in a very 'look at me' way."

Paramedics attended Stephenson Way, a short distance from the pub, where Mr Lee was lying in a bus stop.

He was initially taken to the A&E department at Darlington Memorial Hospital, before being transferred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where he died on September 19, never having regained consciousness.

Mr Hedworth told the court a post mortem examination had found there was cocaine in his system, which he may have been experiencing the effects of.

The doctor who carried out the examination concluded Mr Lee died as the end result of a blunt head injury.

Mr Lee's injuries were consistent with the back of his head striking a hard, flat surface, the court heard.

A statement by his mother, Diane Lee, which was read to the court, said: "He was a good person and comes from a good family."

The trial continues.