25th Jun, 2022

Off-road biker pleads not guilty to murder after allegedly killing with single punch in Coventry street

A young off-road rider accused of killing a man who died after being felled by a single punch has pleaded not guilty to his murder.

And a judge at Warwick Crown Court heard that it would probably still be a trial even if the prosecution considered an alternative charge of manslaughter.

Appearing via a video link from Brinsford young offenders institution near Wolverhampton, James Rowley (20) of Bowness Close, Radford, Coventry, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Thady Joe Higgins.

The 41-year-old from Bedford, who was visiting relatives in Coventry at the time, died on March 18 following an incident the previous day.

Rowley pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving over the way he was riding his scrambler motorbike in the Jubilee Crescent area of Coventry on March 17.

And at a previous hearing the court heard the prosecution case was that when challenged by Mr Higgins, his response was to ride up to him and punch him to the neck, causing him to fall.

Prosecutor Peter 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.”

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

And after Rowley had entered his pleas, Mr Skudra said: “It will be a trial if the prosecution persist with murder, and will probably be a trial even if they consider manslaughter.”

Mr Grieves-Smith, who said the prosecution would ‘keep reflecting on the indictment,’ said it was not expected that the medical and pathological evidence would be ready until late June.

And Judge Sylvia de Bertodano, who said the trial was to be listed to begin on September 21, said there should be a pre-trial hearing earlier that month.

Adjourning the case and remanding Rowley in custody, she told him: “We have a trial date for you of the 21st of September, but you’ll be brought to court on the 7th for a pre-trial review.”

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