Man not guilty of killing passer-by

Anthony Roberts
Anthony Roberts
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A man has been cleared of killing a passer-by on a Blackpool street.

Benjamin Gayton had told a court that he never struck anyone in an early morning incident on Queen Street, following a night out.

Anthony Roberts, 44, fell to the ground, hitting his head. Despite going on to receive extensive surgery, he died the following month, having never regained consciousness.

Benjamin Gayton, 27, from Rodney Walk, Grange Park, maintained he was not responsible and had been trying to avoid any trouble because he was on a “life licence” at the time in March.

He had denied a charge of manslaughter and a jury yesterday found him not guilty following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

The court had been told how Mr Roberts and his friend had been making their way up Queen Street following a night out. Charles Brown, prosecuting, alleged that the defendant had chased after the men and went on to punch Mr Roberts because of a possible comment. No witness actually saw the defendant hit him, the court was told.

One witness told the jury he had seen another male strike out at Mr Roberts’ friend. But that man said they had grabbed at each other, but they had left things alone and backed off each other.

Gayton himself insisted he never hit anyone that night. He spoke of seeing two strangers shouting at the end of the street. He said Anthony Roberts had been trying to usher the other man on.

Gayton said he walked up to them and told the other man to go home and “sleep it off”. In his evidence he also said he had feared the situation might escalate and didn’t want to get involved with the police as he might go back to prison for a very long time, due to being on a life licence.

“I just wanted people to go home,” he added.

A Lancashire Police spokesman today said: “We respect the decision of the jury and thank them for giving this matter their full consideration. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Anthony Roberts. We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this tragic death.”