A fisherman already in prison for causing a man severe brain damage in a street attack is facing a life sentence for murder in a landmark case.
The murder trial of Brian Harrison, 31, who killed fellow fisherman Neville Dunn, 44, is thought to be only the second since the legal time limit on charges involving deaths was lifted.
In 2008, Harrison was found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on Mr Dunn, on New Year’s Eve 2007 in Penzance, West Cornwall, and was jailed for a minimum of six years.
After Mr Dunn died in 2009 prosecutors were able to charge Harrison with murder.
The development came after the law – dictating that a victim must die within a year and a day of the assault before an attacker can face a murder charge – was dumped in 2003 leaving no time limit.
Wrongly believing Mr Dunn had raped his ex-girlfriend, Harrison punched him to the ground before delivering a volley of kicks to the head of the already unconscious man. Mr Dunn never recovered and died in Grimsby, where he was from.
Yesterday at Truro Crown Court, Mr Dunn’s family cried as the foreman of the jury delivered the verdict – Harrison merely smirked before he was led from the dock.
Harrison from Gwavas Estate, Newlyn, had denied murder. He was due to be sentenced today.
Speaking afterwards Mr Dunn’s ex-partner, Denise Johnson, 51, said the family were “over the moon” with the verdict.
She said: “Justice has at last been done.
“Our lives have been on hold since the day it happened.
“It has been a tragic ordeal for all of us.”
Ms Johnson said that after Mr Dunn was attacked he was left in a semi-conscious state and couldn’t do anything.
She said: “It was so terrible to have to watch a fit young man who enjoyed life, who enjoyed his fishing, who enjoyed a pint, to just be laid there to nothing.
“So in my opinion, I wish he had died that day so he didn’t have to suffer for the 22 months that he did suffer.”
Ms Johnson, from Grimsby, attended court with Mr Dunn’s daughter Kirsty, 21, and stepson Jason Sutcliffe, 38. He has another daughter, Lindsey Johnson, 29, who did not attend court.
Outside the court, Robert Linford, prosecuting, said: “This case is believed to be only the second time that a man has been prosecuted in this country for murder following the death of a man where the assailant has already been convicted in relation to the same circumstances of inflicting grievous bodily hard with intent.”
In October, Leigh Clift, 31, who was already serving five years for plunging a screwdriver into the head of Jonathan Barton in Buckinghamshire, in 2000, was convicted of murder for the same attack after the victim died in 2009.
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