4th Aug, 2020

Off-road biker accused of killing man with single punch appears in court

THE young off-road rider accused of killing a man who died after being felled by a single punch has appeared in front of a judge at Warwick Crown Court via a video link.

And Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told James Rowley that his trial, which is expected to last five days, will be listed to begin on September 21.

Rowley (20) of Bowness Close, Radford, Coventry, has been charged with the murder of 41-year-old Thady Joe Higgins, who died on March 18 following an incident the previous day.

Appearing via a video link with Brinsford Young Offenders Institution near Wolverhampton, Rowley confirmed his age, and gave his nationality as ‘white British.’

Prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith, addressing the court over a telephone speaker system, said it was alleged that Rowley had been riding his off-road bike dangerously in the Jubilee Crescent area of Coventry.

The prosecution case was that when challenged by Mr Higgins, who was from Bedford, but visiting relatives in Coventry, his response was to ride up to him and punch him to the neck, causing him to fall.

But Mr Grieves-Smith, who pointed out that Rowley says it was a push to the chest, not a punch, said the prosecution ‘will need to consider the form of the indictment.’

He explained: “There will clearly be a discussion about whether this is a murder case or what is referred to as a ‘one-punch manslaughter’ case.”

Henry Skudra, defending, who was in court, said it was ‘not accepted there was an unlawful act.’

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC observed that there will need to be a post-mortem report by a pathologist, as well as one by a brain injury expert before the trial can be held.

And he indicated: “I am minded to set this matter down for trial before Judge [Sylvia] de Bertodano on the 21st of September. I think it’s a five-day time estimate, and Judge de Bertodano is available to do that.”

Mr Grieves-Smith said that all the pathological evidence would not be ready in less than three months, but that other evidence would be served on the defence by an earlier date.

So Judge Lockhart ordered a plea and trial preparation hearing to take place on April 27 and, having been told by Mr Skudra that there was no application for bail, remanded Rowley in custody until then.

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