Teen 'playing the big man' who killed vulnerable addict with one punch is jailed

Connor Stewart, 16, was jailed for three years for killing a vulnerable man with a single punchLancashire Police

A teenager has been jailed for three years for killing a vulnerable man with one punch.

Preston Crown Court was shown video footage of 16-year-old Connor Stewart shadow-boxing Michael Rhodes, 47, as he showed off playing the "big man" in front of a group of friends.

A drunken Rhodes can be seen holding his hands up in defence and trying to walk away before he is punched and falls to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement.

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Rhodes is left lying motionless on the ground, and one person can be heard shouting: "Oi, he's bleeding. His head's bleeding." And another voice says: "He's killed him."

Stewart and a number of youths can been seen running away from the scene outside a Costcutter store in Blackpool as Rhodes lies dying on the floor after the incident on 20 May.

Rhodes suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital, where he remained in a critical condition for weeks before his death on 11 June.

Rhodes was a former plasterer and chef who had battled problems with drink and drugs.

Stewart, who initially told police he had acted in self-defence but later admitted to manslaughter, was ordered to spend three years in a young offenders' institution. Stewart can now be named after a challenge by the press on reporting restrictions.

The youth showed little emotion as the footage, which was shared on social media soon after the incident, was played to the court.

Wearing a black hooded top, Stewart sat staring at the floor as the court heard how Rhodes was "baited and abused" by youngsters after rowing with staff inside the corner shop.

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Stewart, from Blackpool, wasn't one of the youths abusing Rhodes, but arrived in the street as the row continued.

Easy target

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said: "Perhaps the easiest way to describe the defendant's actions is to say he was playing the big man in front of this group.

"We know the victim was a subject of fun because he was known to be a drug abuser. He was referred to there as a crackhead. He was an easy target."

Defending, Julie Taylor said Stewart was a troubled youngster, she said he had been exposed to domestic violence growing up, before his mother and father separated when he was a young teenager.

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She added: "The fact the video exists and was circulated on social media has nothing to do with the defendant. He was very distraught and he has been unable to watch it."

His Honour Judge Mark Brown said: "This is obviously a very tragic case and I accept you did not intend to kill Mr Rhodes or do him really serious harm.

"However, you were prepared to use force and did so showing off to your friends, and he died because of your violent conduct towards him.

"Although he had issues with drugs and alcohol, he was not a violent person and would always shy away from conflict."

Outside the court, Detective Chief Inspector Jon Holmes of Lancashire Police, said: "Mr Rhodes posed no threat and meant no harm to anybody and, on that day, was simply going about his own business when he was unlucky enough to cross paths with Connor Stewart."

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