Southampton law student found guilty of Valentine’s Day manslaughter

He’s been sentenced to six years for killing father-of-ten Gary Stacey

Winchester Crown Court

A final year studying law at the University of Southampton has been found guilty of manslaughter.

Ryan Cooper, 21, was today sentenced to six years in prison over the death of 49-year-old Gary Stacey. The father-of-ten was found on an Isle of Wight street in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2016. He later died of head injuries in Southampton General Hospital.

Cooper pleaded not guilty to the offence in September, not because he denied throwing the punch but because he claims his actions were in self defence. He said in a police interview:

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

In court, defence lawyers maintained that Stacey had “verbally threatened” Cooper and come at him “with a raised fist”. The Isle of Wight County Press reports Cooper broke down in the witness box and “was at times barely able to speak”.

Father-of-ten Gary Stacey

However, prosecuting barrister Andrew Houston claimed Cooper’s actions were unprovoked and dismissed his self defence claims as “made up”. Lawyers also noted Cooper — in his second year of his LLB at the time — bragged on Facebook that he’d drunk half a litre of vodka and done a line of cocaine on the night of Stacey’s death.

A jury at Winchester Crown Court today found him guilty of manslaughter. Sentencing, Mr Justice Warby said:

This is a very sad case. You will miss your finals. There will inevitably be an impact on your future career choices. I am sure you would take back those two seconds if only you could. But of course you can’t. The case is sadder for Gary Stacey and his family.

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