Marsh man who killed friend with two punches is jailed

Kieran Cuffe.
Kieran Cuffe.

A man who killed a childhood acquaintance with two punches was today jailed for four years and eight months.

The Honorary Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown, said the case of John Houston, who suffered catastrophic facial injuries, was a “lesson to everyone prepared to use violence” that a punch can itself be fatal.

Defendant Kieran Cuffe, 43, of Chestnut Grove, Lancaster, inflicted two blows to the 41-year-old’s face in a row as the pair drank cider and watched a film in the victim’s home on Laburnum Close, Lancaster, on April 2, Preston Crown Court heard.

Family of man killed by friend on Marsh estate pay tribute to him - read more

In the aftermath Cuffe visited various friends and relatives, telling them the pair had fought and asking them to “check on Houstie” - but never sought emergency help.

When one friend had got no reply at Mr Houston’s door, Cuffe joked he was “brown bread” - slang for dead.

Mr Houston was found dead in his bedroom on April 4 by his sister Amanda McCleary.

Nearby workmen, who saw the distressed woman, used a lump hammer to break into the house where she then discovered her brother’s body at a bloodstained scene.

A post mortem examination showed he had suffered a broken nose and cheekbone and had died from aspiration of blood and haemorrhaging.

Cuffe wiped away tears in the dock as the Honorary Recorder of Preston Mark Brown said: “You had known and considered him a friend for many years.

“It is not entirely clear what had gone on, but Mr Houston died due to punches to his head.

Related articles:

Neighbours’ horror as Lancaster murder inquiry launches - read more

Lancaster man pleads guilty to manslaughter of friend - read more

“The blows caused facial fractures which bled heavily and sadly he died as a result of substantial blood loss.

“Over the next day and a half you called on various other people to ask them to check on Mr Houston. Some of them did but after knocking at the door they didn’t get an answer.

“You never contacted the police or the ambulance services and on one occasion when you were told there had been no answer at the door you made a flippant comment.

“Word got around, there was concern about him and eventually his family became involved.

“It is not clear if any intervention would have made a difference, but it is a fact you never called emergency services, you never summoned an ambulance.”

“His family not only feel the bitterness of separation, but also appreciate the goodness of his life and what he meant to them

“It must be understood human life cannot be restored and nor can its loss be ever measured by a sentence of the court.”

More than 100 people attended the former Lancaster Grammar School’s funeral.

The court heard he had lived with his pet lizard at his one bedroomed home, and was popular and kind.

He had struggled with bi polar disorder for around a decade and sometimes used alcohol to deal with his issues.

In a victim statement the victim’s mother, Margaret Love said he was a kind man from a decent family.

A touching poem penned by his niece was read in court.

His distraught sister described them as “ like twins - two peas in a pod” and said she constantly relived the thought of him dying on his own when she was not there to comfort him.

Defending, Fraser Livesey said: “He recognises his remorse is woefully inadequate.”