Man cleared of killing father in social distancing row after being asked to walk past him

A man accused of killing a man who asked to walk past him to “maintain social distancing” has been found not guilty. Oscar Shepherd, 21 amitted punching 53-year-old Joseph Henderson but argued he was acting in self defence, Manchester Evening News reports. Mr Henderson was “very concerned about Covid” and had been walking down Wimslow Road towards Fallowfield, Manchester, when he noticed Mr Sheperd walking behind him and asked him to walk past him, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

The proscution told the court that “something happened” as Mr Henderson closed the gap and it was alleged that Mr Shepherd punched Mr Henderson to the face, causing him to fall backwards hitting the back of his head.

CCTV captured the moment showing Mr Shepard walking away from Mr Henderson who laid unconscious on the ground.

Mr Henderson died eight days later from a brain injury.

Mr Shepherd, of Victoria Avenue, Derby, denied manslaughter and was unanimously found not guilty by a jury.

The court heard that Mr Sheperd had thrown a “pre-emptive blow” fearing that Mr Henderson was about to headbutt him.

During a trial a statement was read on behalf of Mr Henderson’s daughter who said her dad was “concerned if anybody got too close to him in the street or in the shops” during the pandemic.

The statement said: “At the beginning of August of last year, my father moved into a flat in Rusholme. Mr dad was very happy and his overall health was fair, he was coping and physically he was on heart medication and blood thinners following a heart attack in 2010.

“I know he was very concerned about COVID because of his health problems, and he didn’t like it if he had to go to the shops and he could not socially distance. During the COVID outbreak I went shopping with him, and he did get concerned if anybody got too close to him in the street or in the shops.

“From one of the few occasions a person got too close and didn’t adhere to social distancing, dad would use his hands to gesture and say ‘do you mind not getting too close please’. He would never be aggressive, and he would then explain it was because of COVID. He was kind, well mannered and wanted a quiet life. He would help anybody. He was a good man with a good sense of humour.”

Mr Shepherd faced a re-trial after the jury in his first trial were deadlocked and unable to reach verdicts.