Belfast chef Dowie not guilty over one-punch death of Conan Anderso
A north Belfast chef has been acquitted by a jury of causing the death of a 22-year-old man who died in hospital of severe head injuries 12 days after a one-punch altercation.
Following a week-long trial at Belfast Crown Court, a jury declared Lawrence Dowie not guilty of killing Conan Anderson, after deliberating on the case for over four hours.
The family of Short Strand man Mr Anderson left the court as soon as the majority 10 to two 'not guilty' verdict on a charge of manslaughter was announced.
Mr Anderson sustained a fatal head wound during an early morning altercation with Mr Dowie (28) in the Arthur's Lane area of Belfast in February 2017.
Mr Dowie, whose address cannot be published due to a reporting restriction, always maintained he acted in self-defence.
He insisted he struck Mr Anderson once after the football coach head-butted him.
The left-handed punch to Mr Anderson's jaw resulted in him falling back and hitting his head on the pavement, which caused a catastrophic head injury.
He was rendered unconscious for a period, but after being helped to his feet by Mr Dowie and another man at the scene, Mr Anderson walked the mile-long journey from the city centre to his Short Strand home in the early hours of Monday, February 6, last year. The jury viewed CCTV footage showing Mr Anderson clearly unsteady on his feet at times as he walked home.
Mr Anderson was spoken to by both a paramedic and police, and rejected medical assistance.
He slept for a few hours after returning home, but his erratic behaviour later, on the afternoon and evening of February 6, caused so much concern to his family that an ambulance was called.
Despite medical intervention, Mr Anderson passed away in Intensive Care on February 18 last year from severe head injuries including a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
Mr Dowie, who gave evidence during the trial, appeared in court on crutches following a motorbike accident.
After Judge Gordon Kerr QC was informed there was nothing pending against Mr Dowie, he told the clearly relieved chef he was free to leave the dock.
During the trial, the jury heard that Mr Dowie - who had never met Mr Anderson before that fateful night - attended an after-party in the storeroom of restaurant AM:PM, and was one of a group of revellers standing on the street when they left the premises at around 5.30am.
As he gave evidence from the witness box, Mr Dowie said there was a bit of "banter" and "slagging" between him and the deceased, and claimed Mr Anderson came at him first.
When asked during the trial about this slagging and banter, Mr Dowie told the jury: "Conan was calling me Dumbledore because I was doing magic tricks, and I was calling him Gandalf.
"It was all just a bit of innocent slagging.
"After I said to him, 'Aye, no sweat Gandalf' he came over from the footpath to where I was in the middle of the road.
"He came straight over with his hands down by his side, fists clenched.
"There wasn't any time to think. I sort of froze. He put his head into mine ... his head connected with the bridge of my nose."
Claiming the entire incident lasted "around 20 seconds at the most", Mr Dowie continued: "Everything happened so quickly. He was coming forward to me with punches. He only swung two punches, I believe both punches were with his left hand."
And when asked how he responded, Mr Dowie said: "I swung one back. I didn't have time to think. I just reacted. It was a panic swing to get him away from me. I believe it connected with his chin."