A Belfast man accused of killing another man in a one-punch attack told police he and the victim had "a wee drunken scrap" and claimed he acted in self-defence, a court was told yesterday.
Lawrence Dowie is standing trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of unlawfully killing Short Strand man Conan Anderson.
Mr Anderson passed away a fortnight after becoming involved in an altercation in the city centre.
Dowie (28), whose north Belfast address cannot be disclosed due to a reporting restriction, previously admitted punching the 22-year-old Anderson on Arthur's Lane, but said he was acting in self-defence.
As prosecutor Richard Weir QC opened the Crown case against Dowie to the jury, the barrister said that despite medical intervention Mr Anderson died from "severe and substantial" head injuries.
The deceased sustained the injuries from falling backwards and hitting his head after being punched by the defendant.
Mr Weir told the court that after socialising in a local bar, the two men became involved in an argument in the street.
Dowie claimed that after he called Mr Anderson "Gandalf", the victim "snapped" and swung punches, but that he stepped back and struck out at him only once.
As he set out the background to the manslaughter charge, Mr Weir said that on the afternoon and evening of Sunday, February 5 last year, Mr Anderson had been socialising at a number of venues around the city.
At approximately 6pm, he returned home briefly to collect something.
Mr Weir explained that Mr Anderson's mother said "he had been drinking but was not drunk".
Afterwards, the deceased headed back out and later went to Thompson's Garage, a nightclub in the city centre.
He left the premises at approximately 3am and joined a group of people who continued to party in the storeroom of another venue.
The group left the storeroom at around 5.30am and ended up on Arthur's Lane.
The prosecutor said that while on the street, the accused and Mr Anderson "squared up to each other", the initial contact between the two men involving "their heads coming together".
Telling the court that what followed was "a headbutt by Conan Anderson on Lawrence Dowie", Mr Weir said the defendant took his coat off, after which Mr Anderson threw punches towards him, which Dowie avoided by stepping away.
It is the Crown's case that when Mr Anderson dropped his fist, he was punched on the chin by Dowie, which caused him to fall backwards and strike the back of his head against the pavement.
Mr Weir said Mr Anderson was unconscious for a short period. When he came around, he left the scene.
The jury heard that despite people at the scene calling an ambulance, Mr Anderson declined assistance from paramedics who came across him as he made his way home to the Short Strand.
Mr Anderson's mother caught a glimpse of her son as he walked past her bedroom at around 7.40am on Monday, February 6. As the day progressed, she became increasingly concerned about his "erratic behaviour and appearance".
An ambulance was called later that day but, despite medical intervention, Mr Anderson died from head injuries on February 18 last year.
Telling the court and jury "the matter was very thoroughly investigated by the police", Mr Weir said Dowie was initially arrested on February 9.
The defendant made an unsolicited comment to an officer, saying: "He tried to headbutt me. It was a fair dig. I hit him once and he got up and ran away".
Dowie also told the same officer: "He was a big fella. He came at me and tried to headbutt me.
"He threw two punches at me. I hit him once. He went down but got back up."
Dowie was interviewed again following Mr Anderson's death. On that occasion, he told police there had been " "slabbering" between him and Mr Anderson.
While Dowie said he called Mr Anderson "Gandalf', he insisted he was "just having a laugh" and that Mr Anderson "snapped" and came at him.
The defendant also said the deceased threw "two digs" at him and that he "just stood back, hit him once and he fell".
He also described the incident as "a wee drunken scrap".
Dowie claimed that throughout the incident he acted in self-defence - a claim the Crown rejected, Mr Weir told the jury.
Rather, Mr Weir, said, it is the prosecution's case that "the accused was not defending himself when he struck that fatal blow", which resulted in him being charged with manslaughter.
The trial continues.