GRAPHIC CONTENT: Victim 'did nothing to provoke' killer teen

Connor Stewart and victim Michael Rhodes
Connor Stewart and victim Michael Rhodes

A teenager ‘shadow boxed’ in front of a Blackpool dad before killing him with a single punch, Preston Crown Court was told.

Connor Stewart will serve a sentence of three years in a young offenders’ institute after admitting killing Michael Rhodes outside a resort shop.

The 16-year-old, who can be named after a successful challenge on reporting restrictions, was told by judge Mark Brown: “You were shadow boxing and Mr Rhodes had his hands held out in a kind of wishing to keep the peace gesture.

“Despite that, you delivered a deliberate and forceful blow which knocked him off his feet, caused him to go backwards, and his head struck a concrete floor.

“There was absolutely no need for you to get involved with him, and he did nothing to provoke you hitting him.”

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Sickening footage of Stewart’s attack was widely shared on social media in the days and weeks that followed the brutal assault, on Saturday, May 20.

Connor Stewart was sentenced to three years in a young offenders' institute

Connor Stewart was sentenced to three years in a young offenders' institute

And the teen showed little emotion as it was replayed in court this morning.

It showed Stewart approaching Mr Rhodes, who had been drinking and was unsteady on his feet, and posturing, before landing his killer blow.

The clip, filmed on a mobile phone, as well as CCTV footage taken from the shop, showed the unconscious 47-year-old fall backwards, hitting his head on the ground.

As the youths run off, leaving Mr Rhodes lying motionless, one could be heard shouting: “Oi, he’s bleeding. His head’s bleeding.”

And another voice says: “He’s killed him.”

Stewart later returned to the scene and urged his victim to ‘wake up’, the court was told, before fleeing once more.

After being arrested, he told police he had acted in self-defence. He later admitted a charge of manslaughter.

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Detective Chief Inspector Jon Holmes, of Lancashire Police’s Force Major Investigation Team, said: “Mr Rhodes posed no threat and meant no harm to anybody, and on that day in May was simply going about his own business when he was unlucky enough to cross paths with Connor Stewart.

“Sadly, Mr Rhodes’ life is not the only one ruined: those closest to him must now deal with the loss of a beloved family member and friend, while Stewart, aged just 16, has a conviction for manslaughter and must spend the rest of his life with another man’s death on his conscience.

“This is an utterly tragic case which was totally avoidable and shows the devastating consequences that just one punch can have.

“I’d now like to thank the judge for handing down the sentence he has today, which sends a strong message that behaviour like this will not be tolerated. I would also like to pay tribute to Mr Rhodes’ family, who have conducted themselves with nothing but dignity at such a difficult time.”