Blackpool mum’s plea as lives are changed with one punch

Connor Stewart killed Michael Rhodes with a single punch (below left). Reece Roberts before the attack (top left) and (right) recovering with mum Millissa.
Connor Stewart killed Michael Rhodes with a single punch (below left). Reece Roberts before the attack (top left) and (right) recovering with mum Millissa.

Loving Millissa’s call for people to ‘think before they clench their fists’ comes after teen Connor Stewart was jailed for killing Michael Rhodes – and as her son Reece continues to recover from a similar attack four years ago.

READ MORE: Shadow-boxing teen locked up for killing ‘easy target’ Michael Rhodes with single punch to his jaw

Connor Stewart (left) killed Michael Rhodes (right) with a single punch

Connor Stewart (left) killed Michael Rhodes (right) with a single punch

The mum of a Blackpool man maimed in a one punch attack has pleaded with people to ‘please, please think before you act’.

Millissa Roberts spoke out after 16-year-old Connor Stewart was locked up for three years for accidentally killing Michael Rhodes, 47, outside a corner shop in May.

The troubled teen, who will serve his sentence in a young offenders’ institution after admitting manslaughter, had been acting the ‘big man’ in front of his pals, Preston Crown Court heard.

Millissa, whose son Reece suffered irrevocable injuries and spent two years in hospital after a similar attack in 2013, said: “People need to think before they clench their fists.

“Every time you open the newspaper, there’s something to do with one punch attacks. It’s like the norm now. It’s heart-breaking.”

‘Gentle giant’ Reece, now 29, was having a cigarette outside Bar 19 in Queen Street when he was hit in the face. Knocked out, he fell and hit his head on the ground, leaving him fighting for his life.

The unprovoked assault, which saw his attacker sentenced to just 20 months before bars, has left him unable to walk and suffering from fits.

Now living with his family in a specially-adapted home in Convent Crescent, Grange Park, Man Utd fan Reece will never be able to work – and is still recovering four years later.

Millissa, 46, who has given talks to college students about the deadly consequences of such attacks, told The Gazette yesterday: “He’s here, and we are grateful he’s here, but we have still got a journey to go.”

She also said Stewart should be given help while detained for attacking Mr Rhodes, 47.

Judge Mark Brown said he considered the teen’s age, early guilty plea, and his troubled past before sentencing him.

“He needs rehabilitation and help,” Millissa said. “He needs to know what he has done is wrong, and needs to be where he is to think about what he has done, but he needs that guidance while he is in there.”

Stewart hopes to enrol in a college course and turn his life around after serving his term, Preston Crown Court heard on Monday morning.

Some readers described his three-year sentence as a ‘joke’, with Mr Rhodes’ sister Jane Parkinson herself describing it as a ‘kick in the stomach’, but Millissa said she thought ‘he would have got less’, after the punishment handed to Reece’s attacker.

Thomas Field, of Rushton Road, Levenshulme, was 27 when he was jailed for less than two years in April 2014.

Field admitted punching Reece and was said to have been ‘devastated’ by his actions, but was found with a newspaper cutting on the incident when he was arrested.

And Millissa said: “Thomas Field was in his 20s and with two of his mates. He was a grown man and knew what he was doing was wrong.”

There have been several so-called one punch killings in Blackpool in recent years.

And Stewart’s sentence matches one given two years ago to 14-year-old Kyle Major, who killed dad-of-two Paul Walker, 52, moments after wishing him a happy new year.

Mr Walker was found face down in Sutton Place, Blackpool, with his hands still in his pockets, after being attacked by the teen in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Roofer Allan Glenny, of Clifton Avenue, was 24 when he was jailed for three years and four months in 2012, after killing chef Rick Guest-Binns, 44, in a row over cheesy chips at the Chicken Express takeaway in Caunce Street.

William East,of Onslow Road, delivered a fatal blow to 45-year-old Tony Pepper at the Devonshire Arms pub in 2010, and was also jailed for three years, aged 23.

‘Age a factor’

Judge Mark Brown told Stewart, 16, of Sherbourne Road in North Shore, his young age was a ‘very relevant consideration’ as he handed down a sentence of three years – but said ‘the public expect proper punishment’.

He also took into account his early guilty plea and his troubled past, Preston Crown Court heard. The hearing was also told the teenager had been referred to children’s services a number of times, and came from a violent, broken home.