A 21-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed for nine years after he fatally punched a man who challenged him over his dangerous motorcycle riding.
On March 17 off-road biker James Rowley, was riding on a stolen scrambler off Jubilee Crescent, Radford, Coventry, when he was approached by care manager Thady ‘Joe’ Higgins.
Witnesses earlier described seeing Rowley speeding through residential streets, jumping red lights and mounting pavements. He nearly got into a row with a motorist after almost causing a crash at traffic lights at one point.
Mr Higgins, who was celebrating St Patrick’s Day with family, feared for the safety of young children playing outside and urged Rowley to stop.
Rowley responded by revving the bike’s engine – showering Mr Higgins and a friend with dirt – before striking his victim with a single punch. He suffered a serious head injury as a result and died the following day in hospital.
Rowley picked up Mr Higgins’ St Patrick’s Day hat “as a trophy” and was heard laughing and he sped away on the bike.
West Midlands Police launched a murder enquiry and Rowley handed himself in on March 20.
Rowley claimed Mr Higgins approached him in an aggressive manner shouting: “I’m gonna do you” and suggested he only threw a punch in self-defence. And in a police interview he described himself as a dad and the “softest, nicest guy you ever come across”.
But the defendant had a previous record of violence, including an assault when he was 14.
CCTV, social media footage obtained, and witnesses accounts contradicted his version of events.
In the face of compelling police evidence Rowley later changed his account and admitted manslaughter and dangerous driving.
At Warwick Crown Court on Monday (September 21) he was jailed for nine years.
Detective Inspector Jim Colclough described Mr Higgins’ death as “tragic and senseless”.
He added: “Joe grew up in the area and didn’t like people disrespecting his community. Witnesses describe him approaching Rowley politely; he wanted to convey his concerns for the danger he posed to people.
“Some witnesses described seeing Rowley laughing and dancing in the victim’s hat after the fatal punch. Rowley’s violence was witnessed by several children in the street.
“He lay low for two days before handing himself in. The judge said he spent the time ‘planning the lies he was to tell the police in interview’.
“But we had already gathered testimonies from independent witnesses, plus seized CCTV and social media video showing Rowley’s dangerous riding and the assault.
“My sympathies remain with Mr Higgins’ friends and family.”