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Off duty cop killed because he was a policeman says widow

Neil Doyle
Neil Doyle

The widow of an off-duty policeman has said that her husband was targeted and killed in a city centre attack because of his profession.

Sarah Doyle, who had been married to Pc Neil Doyle, 36, for less than six months when he was fatally struck with a "piledriver" punch whilst celebrating his Christmas party, said she believed he was the victim of a hate crime.

Mrs Doyle said her husband was killed on the Liverpool streets that he "lived to protect" and she could never forgive perpetrators football agent Andrew Taylor, 29, and sports event manager Timmy Donovan, 30.

They were both found guilty of his manslaughter by joint enterprise after a trial at Liverpool Crown Court, in what was described by the judge as "a sustained and vicious attack".

Timmy Donovan, 30 (left) and football consultant Andrew Taylor, 29 (right).

Taylor, a £40,000 football consultant for the Wasserman Media Group, was sentenced to seven years and six months for his part in the crime which also saw two other officers injured.

His co-defendant Timmy Donovan was handed a prison term of six years and 10 months.

Neither admitted throwing the fatal punch which ruptured Pc Doyle's vertebral artery and led to bleeding on the brain during the early hours of December 19 2014.

In a victim personal statement from Mrs Doyle which was read to the court as she sobbed uncontrollably in the public gallery, it told how she struggled during the trial.

"Seeing him lying in a gutter like a dying cat, not one person going over to help, I will never get the image out of my head. My last words to him were, 'I love you stay safe and ring me when you want me to come and pick you up'. I'm still waiting for that call."

She added that she treated his death as a hate crime, adding: "I still hold the belief my husband was targeted because he was a police officer."

Pc Doyle had been out with his Eaton Road colleagues celebrating their Christmas party when he and Pcs Robert Marshall and Michael Steventon began to make their way to another bar.

Taylor had been out with Donovan celebrating friend Christopher Spendlove's 30th birthday when the violence ensued.

The trial heard how Taylor began to bait Pc Doyle asking, "are you having a good evening officer?" before following them and launching into a street attack.

CCTV showed Pc Marshall being kicked and punched but failed to capture the moment Pc Doyle was struck.

During the trial the court heard that Pc Doyle was struck twice after being set upon by the defendants before staggering across the street.

Following the attack, Taylor told co-accused that he had "knocked the big fella out" as they made their way to another bar.

The defendants claimed that they had been acting in self-defence.

Taylor and Donovan were also found guilty of wounding Pc Marshall with intent.

Taylor was further found guilty of grievous body harm with intent to Pc Michael Steventon who suffered a fractured cheekbone.

Mr Justice Mark Turner said: "I can't be sure that you, Taylor, approached your three victims with the intention to start a fight nor be sure that you knew Mr Doyle was a policeman.

"Rather than make yourself scarce I'm satisfied that you deliberately chose to go around the corner to a quieter street either to fight Mr Doyle or that violence was on the cards."

Following the incident, Mrs Doyle, upon hearing a knock at her door and seeing Pc Doyle's colleagues, said she "realised something was wrong".

The court heard how the couple had only married in July 2014 and less than six months later, she was herself "standing at the bottom of the aisle with Neil in a coffin".

"Instead of going on honeymoon I was arranging his funeral.

"I will never forgive them for this. No amount of justice will ever be sufficient. We had our whole lives to look forward to instead it has been destroyed and taken away from us. I feel like I have been given a life sentence."

Passing sentence Mr Justice Turner said: "All of these offences were perpetrated in a relatively short time frame on the streets of Liverpool. The CCTV partly illustrates all too vividly the level of violence you were involved in."

Sentencing Taylor, he said: "It was your conduct that led to the fracas that led to the death of Mr Doyle. You went around the corner in full knowledge that violence was likely to occur."

Taylor also received a four year jail term for the two further charges to run concurrently with the manslaughter sentence.

Donovan, who fled to Germany after the attack, was also sentenced to five years for the offence of wounding with intent, to also run concurrently.

Mr Justice Turner said: "I'm sure that you were involved in this joint enterprise from beginning to end. One only has to look at the CCTV to see how appalling your behaviour was at the time. You returned to stamp on him (Marshall) while he was still vulnerable."

Mr Spendlove, 30, was acquitted by the jury of all charges.

Detective Superintendent Mike Shaw of Merseyside Police welcomed the ruling: "Neil Doyle lost his life because of this moment of aggression and Pcs Robert Marshall and Michael Steventon suffered serious injuries too.

"No-one's night out should end like this and Taylor and Donovan now have a considerable amount of time in prison to think about what they have done."