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'I'm sorry', says man cleared of manslaughter in Prince of Wales Road attack in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 08:57 15 December 2011 | UPDATED: 15:47 15 December 2011

Ion Lacatus after being found not guilty of the manslaughter of Alan Jewitt. Photo : Steve Adams

Ion Lacatus after being found not guilty of the manslaughter of Alan Jewitt. Photo : Steve Adams

A 27-year-old man who has been cleared of the manslaughter of a father-of-three who died after being punched during a night out in Norwich has apologised to the victim's family.

Alan Jewitt, 43, from Gertrude Road, north Norwich, died on August 12 this year after being punched near Chicago’s nightclub on Prince of Wales Road by Ion Lacatus, of Kettlebaston Road, London.

Mr Lacatus, who denied manslaughter and said he acted in self defence, was yesterday cleared by a jury at Norwich Crown Court who took just over four hours to reach their verdict.

Speaking outside court Mr Lacatus, who broke down in tears when the verdict was announced, said he was sorry for what had happened on August 12 and the devastating impact it has had on Mr Jewitt’s family.

He said: “I feel sorry. I’m in a bad position to tell them (the family) I feel sorry, but from the bottom of my heart I am.

“I know it’s very hard for his family. If I could go back...I feel sorry. If I could tell him...I’m sorry.”

Mr Lacatus, a Romanian national who was working on a shop refurbishment in Norwich at the time of the incident, said he was happy with the verdict and added he thought both the jury and judge were fair.

Speaking after the verdict was announced, Judge Peter Jacobs said cases like this were “very, very difficult” and “sad” as well, before issuing a plea to revellers.

He said: “I do wish that when people wander out down Prince of Wales Road – we’ve all seen it – they drink a bit less on all sides. If they did, we wouldn’t be here trying to resolve issues like this.

“The number of incidents one sees like this...if people were just a bit more sober they wouldn’t behave like this.”

He added that behaviour like this not only put a “burden” on the courts, but on the NHS and hospital emergency departments too.

It was a message mirrored by det chf insp Neil Luckett of the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team (MIT), particularly with the festive period coming up.

He said: “The key message is for people to think about the consequences of their actions. This was one punch and it’s ended up with a family losing someone whose very dear to them and a man up on trial for manslaughter.

“This incident highlights the dangers of drinking and engaging in acts of violence and underlines the need for people to consider the consequences of their actions. Both men had been on a night out in Norwich city centre, which ended in tragedy. Mr Jewitt lost his life as a result of a single punch and leaves behind a young family. Our sympathies remain with them at this difficult time.”

He added: “What the judge said is exactly right. If you’re going to go out and drink have a good night, but think about the consequences. It just shows how fragile life is.”

Mr Lacatus had been on a night out with work colleagues when one of the group, Robert Albern, walked into the path of Mr Jewitt. Lacatus has told the court he tried to intervene after he saw Mr Albern and Mr Jewitt arguing.

Have you got a crime story for the Evening News? Call Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

The death of a father of three following a night out in Norwich was a tragedy that has devastated the lives of his family and friends forever, as PETER WALSH reports.

Alan Jewitt, 43, from Gertrude Road, north Norwich, happened to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mr Jewitt, a father-of-three, might still be here had he not been walking past Chicago’s nightclub at the moment he did – or had his good friend, best man and calming influence, Robert Lyon, not have gone home.

The altercation that resulted between Mr Jewitt and Robert Albern, a work colleague of the defendant who walked into Mr Jewitt, had been the beginning of the end for Mr Jewitt.

He, like so many others, had gone out into the city on August 11 with his best man and a couple of friends for a few drinks and yet it was to be a night out he would never come home from. Nothing will bring Mr Jewitt back, but for his family, the pain of his loss will be exacerbated by the jury’s not guilty verdict yesterday. But, sadly, the altercation that led to the punch which ended Mr Jewitt’s life was and is very similar to other arguments that routinely break out on Prince of Wales Road and in other parts of the city probably that very same night and perhaps every other night since this tragedy. The only difference is that most arguments do not result in death or even serious injury. It was a point the jury were reminded of by both Jude Durr, defending, and Christopher Morgan, prosecuting, in their closing speeches during the trial.

Mr Durr said that on “almost every night of every week someone punches someone on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich” but it “thankfully almost never results in death”.

But Mr Durr said the “tragic reality” of this case was that in the early hours of August 12 this year “Alan Jewitt lost his life as a consequence of a single punch”.

He said the tragic death was the unusual, “unwanted and unintended consequence of that single punch” and that there was “no weapon, no follow up and no gratuitous continuation of the assault as the unfortunate Mr Jewitt lay motionless, prone, defenceless and tragically dying on the pavement”.

Judge Peter Jacobs was also keen to raise awareness of the issue when he spoke in open court after the verdict was announced when he said he wished people out in Prince of Wales Road drunk a bit less to try and avoid issues like these. Prince of Wales Road, once dubbed the most dangerous street in Norfolk by a leading police officer, is a focal point for revellers with most of the pubs, clubs, bars and takeaways situated on the street. It is where most of the trouble in Norwich occurs, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night, and therefore has also become a focal point for police and partner agencies. For years police, together with pub and club owners have been working together to try and make the area safer.

The pioneering Operation Enterprise initiative, which targeted alcohol-related crime and disorder in the area, proved a great success in particular as have other initiatives since. Community safety chief inspector Gavin Tempest, who led Operation Enterprise, said the police will continue to work with other agencies to make the city safer for everyone. He said: “Norwich still has a burgeoning night-time economy, and alcohol sales and consumption is part of that. In recent years there has been a lot of progress with the police and partner agencies working as closely as possible with the licensed trade to create a safer environment.

“The Norfolk ‘Nightsafe’ partnership has strongly supported work in Norwich to improve awareness of the risks of binge drinking and reduce its effects. There are regular multi-agency visits to keep the pressure on, particularly where there is evidence of poor management or cases where cheap drink promotions are advertised.

“There are offences committed when alcohol is sold to people who are drunk. Good management of bars and clubs should stop that, but we will back that up with enforcement action as and when it is justified.”

For more background to the case go to www.eveningnews24.co.uk

ALAN JEWITT

Alan Jewitt’s life was cruelly cut short at around 2.30am on August 12 this year after he was punched in the head by Ion Lacatus, a Romanian national, who had been working in Norwich and was out with work colleagues.

Mr Jewitt, a self-employed electrician, grew up in Bedford and moved to Norfolk about 15 years ago spent time in the army after leaving school but soon became an electrician.

A statement made by his wife Sally read out in court described how the couple met at the Cat and Fiddle pub in Norwich in 2002 and married in July 2004.

In the statement Mrs Jewitt described her husband, a passionate West Ham supporter, as a “very, very sensitive person who wore his heart on his sleeve” and loved his job.

She said Mr Jewitt “cared for everyone” and was a “great dad” to their five-year-old daughter who would try to ensure he did not work on Sunday mornings so he and his daughter could go to the park and play.

But Mrs Jewitt, who bought her husband a Lambretta scooter for his 40th birthday which he was doing up, said Mr Jewitt, who had two children from a previous relationship, was also a “very private person” who sometimes did not want to talk about things.

She said he loved going to the pub, they went to the Heath House pub once a week, and usually drank Fosters lager. Although he did not tend to drink at home she said Mr Jewitt on occasions, used lager as a “stress release”.

ION LACATUS

Romanian born Ion Lacatus, 27, of Kettlebaston Road, London, was one of three children whose mother is in poor health and still lives back in Romania with his other sister.

Mr Lacatus came to this country to work and help provide a better life for his family including his pregnant wife who also currently lives in Romania.

Mr Lacatus, who had been hoping his wife would join him and bring his mother to live in the UK, had been in Norwich working on an eight week shop conversion and on August 11 was out with work colleagues to celebrate the last night of the contract.

But celebration was to end in tragedy after he threw a single punch at Mr Jewitt who had become involved in an altercation with his friend outside Chicago’s.

Mr Lacatus said the reason he hit out was because he had been racially abused by Mr Jewitt and feared he was going to be attacked which reminded him of a time when he himself had been victim of an assault in Spain when he had teeth knocked out and his jaw broken and had to have a metal plate inserted.

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