Man denies throwing killer punch

A FATEFUL night in which a man died outside a Nailsea pub has been the subject of a manslaughter trial which is expected to come to an end this week.

Since May 9, jurors at Bristol Crown Court have heard a wealth of evidence from numerous witnesses who were at The Queens Head in High Street on June 23 when 50-year-old Alec Farley was either pushed or punched by Stephen Snook. The incident ended with Mr Farley, who had known the accused for 40 years, falling and hitting his head on paving slabs.

The popular Nailsea man, known to many as Big Al, was taken to hospital but died in the early hours the following day after suffering a fractured skull.

Yesterday afternoon (Tues), the jury was due to be sent out to consider the evidence and return a verdict.

At about 10.30pm on June 23, following England’s World Cup win over Slovenia, a scuffle broke out in the front garden of the pub.

Another drinker, Mark Harris, began trying to separate the two men before landlady, Vicky Cottey, split them up. Hearing the commotion from the bedroom above, where Snook lived with Miss Cottey at the time, the 46-year-old, now of Load Lane, Bridgwater, went outside.

Mr Harris said Snook grabbed him by the neck before Miss Cottey told him he was trying to help. Partners Snook and Miss Cottey, however, deny this.

Most Read

Miss Cottey said she then saw Al walk toward Snook saying ‘Steve, Steve, leave it, leave it’ and so put her hands on his arms before saying ‘come on Al, it’s got nothing to do with you’.

She said Mr Farley then pushed her away as Snook turned around and said ‘Al stay out of it - get off my missus’. Miss Cottey and Snook both say he then pushed Al away, causing him to fall backwards down the steps behind him.

No other witnesses saw Miss Cottey and Mr Farley holding each other and some witnesses said they do not believe it was a push that caused Mr Farley to fall.

Andrew Iles told the court he saw Snook punch Mr Farley, who was three times over the drink drive limit, in the face and thought the blow had knocked him unconscious because of the way he fell to the floor.

Mark Harris also told the court he saw Snook throw a ‘jab’ that hit Mr Farley on the side of the face.

Other witnesses said they saw Snook’s arm raised but did not see whether he had punched Mr Farley. However, a number of witnesses told the court they did hear skin-to-skin contact as a result of the blow.

Ryan Pickles said that after the incident, Snook came into the pool room of the pub and said ‘I’ve just hit your mate’.

As Snook went back into the pub, three witnesses, Kay Burgoyne, Debbie Collis and Jack Scott, also reported hearing Miss Cottey say to Snook ‘you shouldn’t have hit him so hard’ to which Miss Collis and Mr Scott say they heard Snook reply ‘I didn’t hit him that hard’.

However, Miss Cottey denied saying ‘hit’ and told the jury she said ‘you didn’t have to do it that hard’ and that Snook replied ‘I didn’t’.

Sarah Regan, defending, told the court that Snook pushed Mr Farley in self defence after seeing a threatening look in his eye.

She said: “He was moving toward Mr Snook and he was drunk and, as a result, he fell to his death. It was unintentional but had the most catastrophic of consequences.”

Miss Regan also said the pathologist said Mr Farley had no injuries to his face consistent with a punch to the mouth area.

Miss Rosaleen Collins, prosecuting, said: “Al Farley had never given this defendant cause to fear that he would be physically aggressive.

“Out of all the witnesses that you have heard not one supports this defendant’s version of events except for Vicky Cottey.

“Lies are difficult to maintain and the truth has a tendency to shine through.”

CCTV footage was shown during the hearing, however, the camera rotated away from the pub at the time Mr Farley was either punched or pushed.

* For news of a verdict from the trial keep an eye on this website.