Tragic dad who died after night out ‘couldn’t defend himself’ when attacked

MARK DIXON: The devoted dad died after being attacked at the end of a night out in Hartlepool.
MARK DIXON: The devoted dad died after being attacked at the end of a night out in Hartlepool.

A TRAGIC dad had his hands in his pockets before he was hit with a devastating blow in an unprovoked attack while on a night out in Hartlepool, a court heard today.

Mark Dixon, 32, suffered a fractured skull after he was punched hard in the face by Paul Sutton and hit his head on the pavement in Victoria Road, Hartlepool, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The use of violence, we will submit, was quite unnecessary and as a direct result of using that violence a man has died.

Tim Roberts, prosecuting

The court heard the attack happened after Mr Dixon, who had earlier been to a wedding party, challenged Sutton, 29, and another man about a comment allegedly made towards a female friend Mr Dixon was with.

Cheryl Bell, a work colleague of Mr Dixon, said some comment was made when Sutton and his friend walked past her as she and Mr Dixon looked for a taxi to share in Victoria Road at around 4am on Sunday, October 5.

Miss Bell said Mark, who was married with a young daughter, was standing with both of his hands in his pockets immediately before he was struck.

She said: “I don’t think Mark thought there would be any violence because of the fact he kept his hands in his pockets.

“He wasn’t prepared to defend himself in any way.”

Describing the assault, Miss Bell said Sutton punched Mr Dixon quickly with his right fist at shoulder height. She added she was so close the punch passed right in front of her nose.

She said he fell straight to the floor adding: “He didn’t crumble. He just bounced off the floor and it made a horrible shatter.”

Miss Bell said Sutton and his friend left the scene. She added: “I got down on the floor to see if he was ok and I noticed he was unconscious.

“I shook him, tapped him on the face asking him to wake up, get up but there was no response.”

Prosecuting barrister Tim Roberts QC asked her: “Could you see any reason for what happened?”

Miss Bell said: “No, not at all. That’s the worst part. There was no explanation. He didn’t deserve to be hit.”

Grainy CCTV footage of the incident taken from across the street was played during the first day of Sutton’s trial.

There were audible gasps from Mr Dixon’s family in the public gallery when the fatal punch was seen.

Miss Bell rang for an ambulance which arrived within minutes. Mr Dixon was rushed to a specialist trauma unit at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough but he never regained consciousness and died of brain injuries six days later on October 11.

Mr Roberts told the jury that Sutton was legally responsible for Mr Dixon’s death.

He said: “It’s the prosecution case that it was wrong to have landed such a hard and unexpected punch to Mark Dixon’s head in those circumstances.

“The use of violence, we will submit, was quite unnecessary and as a direct result of using that violence a man has died.”

Mr Roberts added the prosecution do not say Sutton meant to fracture Mr Dixon’s skull or cause him really serious harm.

But he said: “The prosecution say that Paul Sutton is responsible for the manslaughter of Mark Dixon because it was his unlawful act, that unnecessary, unjustifiable and unexpected punch which caused the death of Mark Dixon.”

The court heard that Mr Dixon, who lived in Peterlee, had earlier been to some friends’ wedding celebration at the Borough Hall on the Headland before going into the town centre where he later met up with friends from work.

When interviewed by police Sutton claimed he felt threatened by Mr Dixon and had acted in self defence.

Mr Roberts said: “He said he hadn’t intended for any of this to happen and in short he said ‘he came at me so I defended myself’.”

The judge, the Honourable Mrs Justice Laing, warned the jury not to be influenced by any sympathy they may feel for Mr Dixon or his family.

Sutton, of Fordham Road, Sunderland, and formerly Hartlepool, denies manslaughter.

The trial continues.