Football coach “staggered” to be charged with joint enterprise murder

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A football coach was “staggered” to be charged with murdering PC Neil Doyle despite not laying a finger on him, a court heard.

The off-duty policeman, 36, died from a head injury after allegedly being attacked on a Christmas night out.

Christopher Spendlove, 30, Andrew Taylor, 29, and Timmy Donovan, 30, deny his murder, reports the Liverpool Echo.

They also deny the wounding with intent of his colleagues, PCs Michael Steventon and Robert Marshall, outside Aloha Bar, in Colquitt Street, on December 19.

Nigel Power, QC, defending Spendlove, told Liverpool Crown Court his case was very different to that of his co-defendants.

He said: “No-one has ever suggested Mr Spendlove ever laid a finger on Neil Doyle.”

Mr Power asked the jury to imagine going out drinking to celebrate their birthday, a friend getting involved in a conversation “nothing to do with you” and one or two friends throwing a punch at a man in a “scuffle”.

He described the man “by fluke” suffering a blow to “an unusually vulnerable place in his neck” and dying.

Mr Power said: “No-one suggests you landed a blow on him or even attempted to.

“Two or three days later just imagine you find yourself charged with the manslaughter of that person.

“You would be shocked, you would be horrified, you would be anxious, you would be scared.

“Just imagine if you had been charged with murder. You would be staggered.”

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Mr Power said Taylor and Donovan blamed each other, but neither told Spendlove they hit PC Doyle.

He said Spendlove was set apart “as someone from start to finish who has done his best to say what happened”.

Mr Power said CCTV footage provided “an incomplete picture” but a pathologist said it was possible PC Doyle died from the first of two blows.

He said to find his client guilty of murder or manslaughter, the jury would need to be sure he was participating, encouraging and foreseeing that someone was going to hit PC Doyle, intending to cause really serious harm.

He said this was an “impossibly high hurdle”.

Mr Power said Spendlove was the last to arrive and “ambled over” with his hands in his pockets, which was not someone anticipating violence that “suddenly erupted”.

He said PC Steventon claimed Spendlove said “you don’t want what’s going to happen”.

However, he said PC Steventon did not mention this “at all” in his first statement and PC Marshall, Donovan and Taylor did not hear it.

He said: “It’s a pretty thin thread to hang murder and manslaughter on, isn’t it?”

Mr Power said four “independent” doormen “provide the best evidence about what the situation really was” and they thought it was just “handbags”.

He said: “Not one of them heard anything that remotely resembled the thing that Mr Steventon in splendid isolation suggests Mr Spendlove said.”

The barrister said Spendlove denied striking PC Steventon and went in to help him with his hand open.

Mr Power said this could not be seen on CCTV, but bouncer Sham Choudry was looking straight at Spendlove.

He said the key prosecution witness did not see Spendlove punch PC Steventon.

Mr Power said: “That’s because there wasn’t a punch. If there was Mr Choudry is the man who would tell you.”

He said it was “obvious” Spendlove realised Donovan was going over the top attacking PC Marshall and pulled him away.

He said Spendlove did not play any part in a “conspiracy of silence”.

Mr Power said CCTV showed Spendlove was looking at PCs Steventon and Marshall when prosecutors say PC Doyle was first hit and at PC Steventon when he was allegedly struck a second time.

He said Spendlove stepped away from the trouble.

Mr Power said: “Is that someone who is actively encouraging and participating in a joint enterprise attack?”

Spendlove told police he later heard Taylor say he hit PC Doyle and “assumed” he fought with him.

Mr Power said: “The first thing a conspiracy of silence needs is silence and there has been none. Christopher Spendlove told the police what he saw.”

He said people “crossed continents” to give evidence about Spendlove’s “exceptional character”.

This included Oklahoma City Energy FC general manager Jason Hawkins, who gave evidence for six minutes.

Mr Power said: “That’s how much Christopher Spendlove means to Mr Hawkins.”

He said Spendlove’s evidence was “compelling” and “frank”, but was followed by “sneering” from the prosecution.

He said: “We suggest Mr Spendlove’s believability and his credibility emerged unscarred.”

Spendlove, of Brandearth Hey, Stockbridge Village; Taylor, of Cherry Tree Road, Huyton; and Donovan, of Walsingham Road, Childwall, deny murder, manslaughter, wounding with intent and wounding. Donovan admits wounding PC Marshall.

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