Trial of Southampton law student accused of Valentine’s Day manslaughter begins

Russell Group LLB-er alleged to have killed a father-of-ten with one punch

A 21-year-old University of Southampton law student has appeared before Winchester Crown Court charged with manslaughter this week.

Ryan Cooper, in his second year of study at the time of the alleged offence, is accused of killing 49-year-old Gary Stacey (pictured below) with just one punch. The father-of-ten was found on an Isle of Wight street in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2016. Stacey later died of head injuries in Southampton General Hospital.

Father-of-ten Gary Stacey

Cooper pleaded not guilty to the offence in September and insisted in police interviews his actions were in self defence. He said:

[Stacey] looked like he was going to hit me, so I just jabbed him to get him away.

Though the trial date was originally scheduled for May, this was changed on 7 November following an application by the defence, and yesterday the prosecution began its case.

According to the Daily Echo, Andrew Houston — of Pump Court Chambers — told the court the defendant threw two punches at the victim. While it’s “probable” one of them missed, the other landed and was a “hard punch.” He continued:

It was severe enough to fracture [the victim’s] left eye socket and forced him to fall and hit the back of his head on the road surface, which caused a skull fracture and severe brain damage.

The prosecution also said Cooper had drunk half a litre of vodka and done a line of cocaine on the night of Stacey’s death, and was kicked out of Yates bar for being too drunk. The trial is likely to last between two and three weeks.

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