MARKET PLACE DEATH: Rugby man tells inquest “I never meant to hurt him”

Taxi rank, Market Place, Rugby town centre.
Taxi rank, Market Place, Rugby town centre.

A man suffered serious head injuries after he was punched during a fight in Rugby town centre, an inquest heard.

David Ryding, 26, from Moreton in Wirral, Mersyside died following the incident in Market Place in July 8 this year.

David Ryding.

David Ryding.

Today (Monday) an inquest into his death began at the Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington Spa.

The inquest heard that Mr Ryding was on a three-week residential training course in Rugby when the incident happened during a night out in the town centre.

DC Craig Varney, based at the major investigations unit at Rugby Police Station, showed CCTV to the inquest in the moments leading up to, during and after the incident.

The CCTV showed Mr Ryding, an ex-soldier, leaving the former Fever nightclub in High Street at around 4.15am of July 7 with two other men he had met on the training course.

The CCTV also showed Rugby man Ben Hartwell leaving the club alone.

DC Varney said that the three men and Mr Hartwell all walked down towards the taxi rank in Market Place - during which time there was no violence.

Mr Ryding got into a taxi with the two men he was with but an altercation broke out between one of the men and Mr Hartwell.

The altercation moved away from the taxi rank and further into Market Place outside Cafe Nero.

The CCTV showed Mr Ryding bouncing around Mr Hartwell in a “boxer stance”, according to the assistant coroner, before throwing a punch at Mr Hartwell’s head which missed.

Mr Hartwell then punched Mr Ryding and he fell to the floor hitting his head.

He was taken to University Hospital in Coventry and put on a life support machine. He died the next day in hospital.

After the incident, Mr Hartwell got into a taxi and asked to be driven to the police station.

In North Street he asked for the taxi to pull over when he saw a police car driving to the scene. He said he thought he’d killed Mr Ryding.

He was arrested at the scene for assault.

Mr Hartwell was later arrested on suspicion of murder but Warwickshire Police announced in October that no further action would be taken against the 22 year old after the Crown Prosecution Service advised that he acted in self defence.

Speaking at the inquest today Mr Hartwell sat in tears in the witness box as he described the events of that night.

Mr Hartwell said he went out alone at around 11pm and later met up with friends before going to Fever.

He told the assistant coroner that he had been drinking but that “he was not really that drunk.”

At the taxi rank he met an old school friend who agreed to share a taxi home with him.

Mr Hartwell said he recognised one of the men getting into the taxi with Mr Ryding. Mr Hartwell said the man had made a comment about his hair in Lloyds the previous night. Mr Hartwell said something about the man to this friend which prompted him to get out the taxi.

He said: “I didn’t think I’d said it loud enough for him to hear. He jumped out the taxi and was coming at me aggressively. I remember backing off and telling him to go home. I was not interested in fighting. He kept coming at me. I pushed him four times to get away from him.”

The man hit Mr Hartwell, leaving him with a black eye.

Mr Hartwell said: “It was a big blow and it hurt. I thought he was going to attack me.

“There was three of them and only one of me. I was quite scared. He kept coming forward at me. He would not get back in the taxi.”

The altercation continued, at which point Mr Ryding stepped in.

Mr Hartwell said: “Mr Ryding came in with his hands up saying he was going to knock me out. I told him to get back into the taxi and that I didn’t want a fight. He was coming at me with his hands up.

“He took a swing at me and I dodged it. I thought he was going to attack me. There was no doubt in my mind.

“I tried to keep him at arms length and was just saying for him to go. That’s when I hit him.”

Assistant Coroner John Ryan asked Mr Hartwell why he had hit Mr Ryding.

Mr Hartwell said: “Because I was scared. I didn’t know where his friends were. They could have attacked me from the side or behind. I’d already been hit by one of them.

“They were verbally aggressive. It was not nice. I just wanted him to leave me alone.

“I never meant to hurt him. I wasn’t meant to knock him out or anything.

“It all happened so quick and he just fell to the floor unconscious. I put my hands up. I didn’t know what to do and I stepped back.

“I tried to apologise to his friend and shake his hand to say I was sorry. I never meant to hurt him.

“Anyone that knows me knows I wouldn’t do that.”

Mr Hartwell said he and his friend got into a taxi after the incident.

He said: “I wanted to go to the police station and then I saw the police car coming up the road. I wanted to talk to the police.

“It was a freak accident. I did not mean to hurt him.”

The inquest continues.