THE thug who struck a killer blow to a dad in a pub brawl in Lancaster will never be brought to justice, an inquest heard.
Dave Bolton, 45, suffered fatal head and neck injuries when violence flared during a St George’s Day celebration at the Sir Richard Owen Wetherspoon pub in Spring Garden Street in April 2009.
A huge police investigation was launched and nine men were prosecuted at Preston Crown Court for public order offences last year.
An inquest into Mr Bolton’s death heard that one man had bragged on Facebook that he had thrown a bar stool which may have caused Mr Bolton’s death.
However, medical experts and detectives told Preston Coroner’s Court that it had been “impossible” to establish which blow had killed Mr Bolton and who had struck it.
Joiner Mr Bolton, of Bannister Hall Drive, Higher Walton, Preston, died in hospital the following day from his injuries.
The inquest heard Mr Bolton had gone to Lancaster with his two sons Sam and Jake and a group of about 20 friends to celebrate St George’s Day, as they did every year. The court was told they were joined by a ‘sub-group’ of about eight other men from Preston who had heard about the day out and decided to come along.
Sam Bolton, 23, told the inquest trouble flared shortly after the groups filtered into the pub at 4pm and encountered another group of men from the Blackpool area.
He said: “There appeared to be some animosity – not from our group.
“It was when one of the members of the other Preston group started to sing songs which were anti-Blackpool FC. One of the Preston group decided to hit the Blackpool group.
“That was when all the violence occurred.”
The inquest heard it was thought Mr Bolton had come into the pub from outside when he heard the fracas and got caught up in the violence, which involved more than 20 men.
Sam Bolton said he did not see his dad fighting or being struck but called out to him to come outside to safety.
Sam said: “He walked towards me and swore. He said, ‘I’ve been done’.
“He was holding the back of his head and that’s when he collapsed into my arms.”
Detectives described the inquiry, led by Lancashire police’s force major investigation unit, as one of the biggest they have ever conducted in the area. It was initially treated as a murder inquiry but no one was ever charged with Mr Bolton’s death because medical evidence could not determine for sure which of the multiple blows had been the fatal one.
Det Insp Nina Foley of Lancashire police told the inquest all 104 people in the pub had been traced and interviewed by officers, media appeals conducted and CCTV scrutinised intensively, but ultimately there was a lack of pathological evidence that would allow the Crown Prosecution Service to bring a murder or manslaughter charge.
She added: “Someone was using Facebook and posted messages to the effect they had thrown a bar stool and it had hit Dave and possibly caused his death. It was put to that individual in interview but even if that was the fatal blow, we will never know because of the delay in his collapse.”
Deputy coroner Simon Jones ruled Mr Bolton died from a brain haemorrhage and recorded a narrative verdict, which said he had received a blow in the pub which caused fatal injuries.
Mr Jones added: “I’m aware of comments reported to have been made by the crown court judge in which the judge said, in spite of the intensive police investigation, justice does not seem to have been done. I understand those comments and echo them.
“The person responsible for the death of Dave Bolton is walking around and has never been brought to trial.”
“That is of no doubt considerable sadness to the family.”