GUILTY

PUBLISHED: 14:10 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 14:44 12 May 2010

JAILED: Graham Willis.

JAILED: Graham Willis.

A MAN has been jailed for three years and nine months after being convicted of manslaughter. Graham Willis, 45, killed Darren Knight with a single punch after an incident in Jepps Lane, Royston. Cleaning contractor Willis then kicked and punched Mr Knight

VICTIM: Darren Knight.

A MAN has been jailed for three years and nine months after being convicted of manslaughter.

Graham Willis, 45, killed Darren Knight with a single punch after an incident in Jepps Lane, Royston.

Cleaning contractor Willis then kicked and punched Mr Knight, 37, as he lay helpless on the ground, a jury at the Old Bailey was told.

Mr Knight, from Reading, died shortly afterwards at the Lister Hospital.

Willis claimed he had acted in self-defence when Mr Knight tried to hit him, and was cleared of murder, but convicted of manslaughter.

Judge Christopher Moss QC told Willis: "The death of Darren Knight was needless. I think you recognise that. I also think if you could turn back the clock you would do.

"I think you genuinely do very much regret what occurred on that night. I also think you recognise your culpability for what occurred.

"What you did was to inflict needless violence on a probably innocent man - clearly violence that was out of all proportion from what he had done - or was believed to have done.

"You were fired up because you believed your daughter had been assaulted by him. You lost it.

"As a result of your loss of temper you struck this man, I am satisfied on evidence, more than once."

The court heard Laura Willis, of Milton Close, Royston, had since died in a car accident and the judge said: "That is not something I can ignore.

"On the other hand, you must be punished for infliction of harm, and the mindless way a life has been lost."

The court heard Laura Willis, 19, had been released from prison and had spent the night of October 8 last year celebrating with her sister Kelly and cousin Jamie at the Old Post Office.

Jamie Willis was involved in an incident and was thrown out of the pub, but as the three walked to the Nu night club they came across Mr Knight, who they believed to have been involved in some way in the pub incident.

Laura Willis argued with Mr Knight, and in a scuffle she ended up on the ground with a cut chin, the court was told.

Willis was called to the scene by his daughter.

Ian Wade, prosecuting, said: "Willis was determined to avenge or protect the well-being of Laura.

He said Willis lunged towards Mr Knight and then delivered more punches and kicks while the victim was senseless on the ground.

In evidence, Willis claimed he had defended himself when Mr Knight was making an advance towards him.

"I don't know whether I hit him with a clenched first or an open hand. He went straight to the floor. I didn't pick him up, I didn't hit him again, and I didn't kick him. I hit the man once only. I defended myself," said Willis.

Willis, of Guiness House, Little Hardings, Welwyn Garden City, had denied murder.

After the verdict the judge criticised the prosecution for going ahead with an expensive murder trial when Willis would have pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

"I am absolutely astonished. It is one of the most obvious cases of manslaughter I have ever seen," he said.

Speaking outside court, Det Insp Mick Hanlon said: "Mr Knight was an innocent man who was out for the evening when he was attacked by Willis.

"Willis totally overreacted to a phone call from his daughter, which led to an assault which proved fatal.

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