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Drunk boy killed dad with one punch after wishing him ‘Happy New Year’

CourtsBy Sunday World
Paul Walker and (inset) teen killer Kyle Major
Paul Walker and (inset) teen killer Kyle Major

An alcohol-fuelled 14-year-old boy "allowed to run wild" killed a father-of-two in an unprovoked street attack after wishing him "Happy New Year", a court has heard.

Kyle Major, from Blackpool, Lancashire, followed his victim who had just asked his group of friends for directions and felled him from behind with a punch to the back of the head.

Paul Walker, 52, was thought to be unconscious before his chin hit the ground and died shortly after in hospital.

He had been found face-down in the street by a passer-by in the early hours of New Year's Day this year and his hands were still in his pockets when paramedics arrived.

Sentenced at Preston Crown Court today, Major, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter at an earlier hearing, was ordered to be detained for three years.

The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC, lifted reporting restrictions on naming the juvenile following an application from the Press Association that the public interest in identifying him outweighed the child's welfare.

The court heard that Mr Walker, described by his family as "a lovely man with a big heart", had lost his way in the resort after leaving his sister's New Year's Eve party "in good spirits".

He came across a group of youths in the street in Sutton Place who told him where he was, including Major who was heard to wish him "happy new year".

Moments later the defendant and a male friend followed Mr Walker.

Major ran off after felling Mr Walker and later texted another friend: "I'm scared. Don't want to go to jail. Two/four years. Don't say anything."

He initially denied any involvement in the attack when arrested.

The court heard that Major, of Devonshire Road, had consumed six bottles of Budweiser lager and a quarter of a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey on the night.

He regularly drank to excess and was also an habitual user of cannabis.

The teenager already had seven previous convictions for non-violent offences such as burglary and theft.

He had been under the supervision of a youth offending team since December 2013 following various court orders but his response was said to have been "poor" and he was described in reports as acting in "a reckless and carefree manner" with no regard to the consequences to himself or others.

Currently in foster care, Major's parenting was said to be "out-of-control".

Judge Russell told him: "Your upbringing was unfortunate. You have been allowed to run wild. This sort of unprovoked attack in the street is a regular feature of towns and cities in this country, regrettably. Unprovoked violence of this kind is completely unacceptable and will be punished."

Jeremy Grout-Smith, prosecuting, said a female witness in the group that Mr Walker, of Normoss Avenue, Blackpool, encountered between 1.25am and 1.32am said he appeared "lost, disorientated and affected by alcohol" but was "nice and friendly".

Major later claimed his friend filmed the attack on his mobile phone but no such footage has been recovered.

Mr Walker's estranged wife Gina, his two sisters and one of his sons were among family members in the public gallery today.

His sister Harriet, in whose home Mr Walker celebrated the New Year, said she had not only lost a brother but "her best friend", in victim impact statements partly read by the prosecutor.

She said he "could not have been happier" as he left the "very pleasant evening" at her house party.

A brother, who lived in Glasgow, was said to be "absolutely devastated", while his wife said: "He was not in any way a violent man. He did not deserve this."

Mrs Walker added: "The boy who killed him needs to know what he has done, not only to us but the rest of us who have to live without Paul in their lives."

Julie Taylor, defending, said: "Kyle Major in the early hours of New Year's Day this year was just 14-and-a-half-years-old. He was somebody at that stage in his life who perhaps did not have the parental guidance he needed at that time."

She said her client had "gone off the rails" but was now "extremely remorseful" and apologised to Mr Walker's family for his actions.

In the last few months he had changed and it had come as a shock to him that he could behave in such a manner, she said.

Miss Taylor said that his foster family say he has "a caring and kind side" when under their guidance.

One of Mr Walker's sons stormed out of the courtroom as that comment was made.

The barrister said Major had difficulty in expressing his emotions but had told her: "If it were my family and the other way round, I would be devastated."

Judge Russell said: "The family statements reveal how loved Paul Walker was and the devastating effect his death has had on his family.

"He has been described as a lovely man with a big heart and you, Kyle Major, were responsible for the loss of this decent man. A loss which the family will never fully recover from."

The defendant stared blankly ahead throughout the proceedings and showed no emotion as he was led from the dock. Mr Walker's family said they were too upset to comment.

Detective Chief Inspector Pete Simm of Lancashire Constabulary's force major investigation team said: "Kyle Major has today been sentenced for his reckless and violent actions which tragically cut Mr Walker's life short and left devastating consequences for his family and friends.

"It took just one punch to kill Mr Walker and this case serves as a stark warning to others, showing just how much damage a single punch can cause.

"Thankfully, Mr Walker's family have been spared the ordeal of having to sit through a trial and although nothing can compensate them for their loss, I hope that the conclusion of this case offers them some form of closure. My thoughts very much remain with them at this time."