A THUG is starting a seven-year jail term after leaving a war hero’s life in ruins and another man seriously injured in separate one-punch attacks over a cigarette.
Drunk and drugged up Keith Anderson struck out after asking each victim for a cigarette at bus stops as they were on nights out in Hartlepool town centre.
Teesside Crown Court heard the 28-year-old dad, from Throston Grange Lane, Hartlepool, already had 19 convictions for 39 offences, including punching and head butting two women in a take away and an assault where he used a pool ball in a sock to attack a man in a pub.
The two devastating attacks happened within minutes of each other on July 26 last year.
Recorder Patrick Palmer was told by prosecutor Robin Turton that after striking out at Lance Corporal Albert Duffy, a veteran of three tours of Afghanistan, he “bounced around, triumphant like a boxer” before walking away.
The soldier, who had high hopes of progressing through the ranks, was left with a fractured skull and needed two rounds of surgery after suffering haemorrhages, leading to part of his brain being removed.
I find it difficult to comprehend how my life has been ruined by a male from Hartlepool, who punched me for no reason.Lance Corporal Albert Duffy
The court heard his life has been transformed and has gone from one of the fittest in his battalion, to an angry man who struggles to put together sentences, has hearing problems and has little grasp of short term memory.
His bosses say he it is unlikely he will return to the Army, while his mother Marie Briggs says she no longer recognises him as the caring son looked up to by his seven siblings and her three-step children.
She feared he would not survive after the attack, which left him slumped on the ground, bleeding from his ears and in a coma for 14 days, and is grieving because of the big change to his personality.
In a statement to the court, L-Cpl Duffy, who escaped injury when a bomb detonated beneath his vehicle on one tour of Afghanistan, said: “I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t have the Army in my life and I have fought for my country.
“I find it difficult to comprehend how my life has been ruined by a male from Hartlepool, who punched me for no reason.”
Shortly before attacking L-Cpl Duffy, Anderson had hit Adam Crosby in Victoria Road after he was angered Mr Crosby only offered him the remainder of the cigarette he was smoking.
Mr Crosby had to take a month off work at his family firm after he was left with a fractured cheek bone and damage to his teeth and nose.
He said: “I’m 25, I should be enjoying myself, but this attack has had a massive affect on me.”
Mr Turton said when Anderson was arrested on July 30, he asked police: “Is that me you’re looking for in the paper” after seeing headlines as officers appealed for help and asked about the condition of one of the victims, but made no comment when he was interviewed.
Mr Crosby’s blood was found on Anderson’s clothing when it was found in his home.
Neil Mullarkey, mitigating, said Anderson had started to tackle his drink problem since he was remanded in custody.
He added: “He is disgusted with himself and thinks about what he has done every day and is ashamed.”
Anderson admitted grievous bodily harm against Mr Crosby and pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent against L-Cpl Duffy after an indication of his sentence would be.
Jailing him for two years for the attack on Mr Crosby and seven for the assault on L-Clp Duffy to run concurrently, he said: “Albert Duffy was enjoying his career in the Army, he was doing his bit for the United Kingdom and served abroad and served in combat and it seems highly unlikely he will return to his career.
“Your one punch destroyed that.”
He added he was “perilously close” to be considered a dangerous offender, which would have seen him jailed until the Secretary of State deemed him safe to release.