Keith King, 55, died from a single punch to the face during a row, an inquest was told
A grandfather died from a single punch to the face during a row outside an engagement party, an inquest has heard.
Keith King, 55, crashed onto the ground of the car park at Broomfield Parish Hall in Chelmsford, Essex, after being hit on the right side of his head.
The painter and decorator was rushed to Broomfield Hospital but never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after his admission.
A coroner has been unable to establish whether Mr King, of Bracknell, Berkshire, was unlawfully killed at the celebration when he was hit just before midnight.
An Essex Police investigation saw one man from Chelmsford quickly identified and arrested on suspicion of murder, but he was later released without charge.
Yesterday’s inquest at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court was attended by a large number of Mr King’s family, more than 14 months after his death on July 30 last year.
Mr King’s widow and daughter were accompanied by support workers from the organisation Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse.
Painter Mr King (right, with a friend) was rushed to hospital but never regained consciousness
After outlining the purpose of an inquest, Senior Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray asked pathologist Dr Benjamin Swift to give evidence.
Dr Swift, who oversaw the post mortem at Broomfield Hospital, outlined a number of injuries that were sustained by Mr King.
‘It wasn’t just a case of him being punched,’ explained Dr Swift. Bruising to Mr King’s right jaw was consistent with witness statements that reported he had been struck on the right side of his face.
On the right side of his body, he was found to have bruising to his shoulder, a small graze to his neck, an injury towards his elbow and a cut on the back of the hand – which were consistent with his falling to the ground.
Dr Swift discovered injuries to the left side of Mr King’s body, including bruising to his left jaw and a fractured cheek bone.
He also believed a small fracture to the left side of Mr King’s nose could have been a result of CPR administered by paramedics.
Mr King crashed onto the ground of the car park at Broomfield Parish Hall in Chelmsford, Essex
A toxicology report revealed Mr King had not been intoxicated either by alcohol or drugs at the time of his death.
An examination of Mr King’s brain by a professor at King’s College Hospital in London found evidence to suggest changes to the cells which supported there being a traumatic brain injury.
However, Dr Swift was unable to ascertain when Mr King became unconscious; whether it was due to the punch or the impact of the fall.
When asked whether a lack of bruising to Mr King’s hands suggested he did not throw any punches, Dr Swift was unable to say conclusively.
‘He had no injuries to his knuckles that would allow me to say he had definitely been punching out,’ said Dr Swift. ‘But that doesn’t mean that he hadn’t.’
Before leaving the court and expressing his sympathy to the family, Dr Swift concluded the cause of Mr King’s death was a traumatic brain injury.
A coroner has been unable to establish whether Mr King was unlawfully killed at the party
Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings of Serious Crime Directorate, who led the criminal investigation, was next to be called to the stand.
He explained to the court the course of the police investigation, including how the suspect was released after a consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service due to a lack of evidence that would lead to the prospect of a successful conviction.
One man was arrested on suspicion of murder, but later released without charge
Despite Mr King’s family attempting to have this decision overturned under the Victims’ Right to Review scheme, no prosecution has taken place.
Having heard the evidence, Mrs Beasley-Murray said: ‘The court, of course, had considered recording a verdict of unlawful killing.
‘I would have to be sure that all the elements for the offence of murder or manslaughter were met and I cannot be sure in light of the evidence that I have heard from Essex Police.’
She also felt a verdict of accident, which has a lower threshold of proof, was not suitable either.
Instead, Mrs Beasley-Murray recorded an open verdict. But she noted that should any fresh evidence come to light, Essex Police would be willing to investigate the case further.
Before formally concluding the inquest, Mrs Beasley-Murray expressed her sympathy, describing Mr King as a ‘much-loved’ member of a ‘tight-knit family’.
‘I hope you will look back on the happy memories you have of him,’ she added.