Dad killed 'with two punches' in front of kids after trick-or-treating on Halloween in Leigh-on-Sea

Philip Mersh (l) and Daniel Ballard (r) Credit: BPM Media

A professional mixed martial arts fighter killed an Essex dad in front of his two children with just two punches, a court has heard.

Philip Mersh had been in Leigh-on-Sea on Halloween last year trick or treating with his two young twin boys on the night he was killed outside a pub by Daniel Ballard.

Mr Mersh suffered serious facial and head injuries in the attack and was taken to hospital.

He died two days later.

Ballard was initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, along with actual bodily harm and common assault.

However, after the death of Mr Mersh, the charges were changed to manslaughter.

At Basildon Crown Court, Ballard was sentenced after he admitted Mr Mersh's manslaughter.

Ballard stayed at the scene of the attack where witnesses described him as looking 'upset' Credit: BPM Media

The court heard that before the attack, Mr Mersh was trick or treating with his family - his fiancee, Sarah and twin sons who were seven years old at the time.

The court heard that it was a "general punch up in the street", which was recorded on mobile phones and CCTV footage.

Video footage was then shown to the court which showed Ballard inflicting a punch to Mr Mersh's fiancee before throwing two punches to Mr Mersh's face, who was standing with his hands up.

'Full force punch'

Upon the second blow, Mr Mersh appeared to have stumbled backwards, before hitting the ground.

The prosecution said that the punches were a "full force punch" and that it was a "mismatch" as Ballard was 'much bigger and taller than Mr Mersh', as well as the fact that Ballard was a 'professional fighter', having had competed in mixed material arts (MMA) fights.

Emergency services at the scene of the attack in Essex Credit: BPM Media

The prosecution added: "The defendant's use of force was disproportionate, offensive and unlawful. Mr Mersh stood with his hands up to pacify the defendant, asking him to stop and calm down. It's clear at that stage Mr Mersh was offering no threat and there was nothing to prevent the defendant from walking away".

Mr Mersh was subsequently taken to the Royal London Hospital, where he was pronounced brain dead.

A post-mortem examination stated that his cause of death as a result of complications of head injuries following physical altercations.

Ballard however, stayed at the scene where witnesses described him as looking 'upset', before he was arrested and taken into custody.

The court heard that he was fully cooperative with the investigations but alleged that he was acting in self-defence. He also received injuries, including a broken nose and fractured eye socket.

The court heard that Ballard had 12 previous convictions for 27 offences which involved violence, starting from 2009 and finishing in 2021.

He breached a suspended prison sentence during the altercation with Mr Mersh,

One of Ballard#s previous convictions involved domestic violence towards a partner.

Judge Graham told him during the sentencing: "Daniel Ballard, you’re 31 years of age and pleaded guilty on an earlier occasion to the offence of manslaughter. The victim, Philip Mersh was 42 years of age at the time. He was a son, a brother and a father.

"Not only aware of his death but were present at the occasion when you killed him were his fiancee Sarah and his twin sons, only 7 at the time now 8 years old.

"There was not just one, but two blows and at the time, Mr Mersh was not being aggressive and offered no threat to you at all."

Judge Graham added he noted that Ballard had no weapon and there was no kicking.

The judge continued: "You took another man's life on Halloween of last year there were significant aggravating features to your case but I can give you credit for your guilty plea and evidence of remorse. This all happened tragically so close to Mr Mersh's home."

Ballard was subsequently jailed for a total of eight years, with the breach of the 12-month suspended sentence for the incident with his former partner to run concurrently alongside the eight years of manslaughter.

Philip Mersh was a son, a brother and a father, the judge said Credit: BPM Media

'This void will never be filled'

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Philip's partner Sarah Wilson said: "Nothing is the same in our lives anymore. I no longer have my fiancee who I spent 20 years with and my children don't have their dad.

"He was everything. We had an extremely tight bond. There is a void that can not be filled without Phil. Both boys have lost their confidence whenever we socialise with friends its clear to me they do not want to go home without their daddy. Phil and I were together for 20 years he was my best friend, my soul mate, my everything.

"I feel utterly empty that he is no longer here. One of the worst things that affected me is that we were so close to home. There is not a day where I don't leave the house and am reminded of what happened.

"Not only did I witness the incident that lead to my fiancee's death, but so did our two sons and their best friend. I'm now a single mum to our boys and the very thought of getting out of the door is a lot to handle.

"When I think of the man that killed Phil, I can see the vision of the incident in my head. He was so aggressive that night that nothing any of us could do would stop him from doing what he did. I have such hatred for him for taking Phil away from us. Thinking about him makes me angry he's taken any future away from Phil and he's taken the boy’s dad away from them.

"He's taken everything away from us and it will never be the same. We will never be able to make any more memories together. The way Phil died was the worst way anyone can die, he was taken from us, we couldn't prepare for it and we couldn't say goodbye. The boys were in disbelief and hysterical when I told them their daddy had died. This void will never be filled and we are so incredibly empty.”

Another victim impact statement from other members of Phil's family, including his mother, said: "Phil was the light of our life that will never be extinguished. Both my husband and I are overwhelmed by grief and trying to think of family events is so hard.

"The thought of the twins having to navigate the world is distressing. We have been robbed beyond words of his strength, words and loyalty. It will never be the same."

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