Wiltshire

Baseball bat murder trial: Neil Sutherland cleared 11 years on

Paul Mills Image copyright Family handout/Wiltshire Police
Image caption Former soldier Paul Mills suffered brain injuries in the attack in 2006 and died at home in 2017

A man has been acquitted of the murder of a former soldier who died 11 years after he hit him with a baseball bat in "self-defence".

Neil Sutherland had previously been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm against Paul Mills.

The father-of-three suffered brain injuries after being attacked in Southwick, Trowbridge, in July 2006.

Mr Sutherland was charged with murder after Mr Mills died in March 2017.

During his trial, Salisbury Crown Court heard a pathologist found Mr Mills died from epilepsy allegedly brought on by the injuries he suffered in the attack.

But James Newton-Price QC, defending Mr Sutherland, told jurors the link between the incident and Mr Mills' death was disputed and said his earlier lifestyle of heavy drinking and drug-taking could have contributed to the cause of his death.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Neil Sutherland told jurors he acted in self-defence

Mr Sutherland told the court that after meeting in a lay-by in Southwick, Mr Mills began "hustling" him for money by trying to sell him a baseball bat because he said he wanted to buy some cider.

He described how Mr Mills, who died aged 44 at his home in Heytesbury near Warminster, had been aggressive towards him and "walloped" him by hitting him around the head with his hand.

The pair met again a short time later in the same lay-by, where Mr Sutherland admitted he hit him with the bat following a struggle.

Mr Sutherland said that he did not want to return the bat to Mr Mills because he was "afraid he was going to hit me with it because he had a high temper and wallop me a second time but with the bat this time".

Speaking after the case, Mr Sutherland, who was supported by an intermediary during the trial and was described as having a "mild learning disability", said: "I am feeling relieved from all the stress and pressure, from the police putting me as a murderer for years."

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