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  1. ITV Report

‘I am relieved’ - Wiltshire man cleared of murder 11 years after baseball bat attack

Neil Sutherland has been acquitted of murder. Credit: ITV News West Country

An unemployed construction worker says he is “relieved” after being cleared of murdering a man he hit with a baseball bat 11 years ago.

Neil Sutherland, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, had previously been jailed for four years after he pleaded guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm against former soldier Paul Mills.

Mr Mills suffered brain injuries following the incident in Southwick, Trowbridge, in July 2006.

Paul Mills died in March 2017 - 11 years after he was hit with a baseball bat.

Mr Sutherland was subsequently charged with murder after Mr Mills died, aged 44, at his home in Heytesbury, near Warminster, in March 2017.

Salisbury Crown Court heard that a pathologist found he died from epilepsy allegedly brought on by the injuries he suffered in the incident.

But Mr Sutherland denied during his trial being responsible for murder or any wrong-doing, and said he acted in self-defence.

He told the court that after meeting in a lay-by in Southwick, Mr Mills began "hustling" him for money by trying to sell him a baseball bat because he said he wanted to buy some cider.

The layby in Southwick, Trowbridge, where Mr Sutherland and Mr Mills met in July 2006. Credit: ITV News West Country

He described how Mr Mills had been aggressive towards him and "walloped" him by hitting him around the head with his hand.

The pair met again a short time later in the same lay-by, where Mr Sutherland admitted he hit him with the bat following a struggle.

Paul Mills developed epilepsy from the injuries that he suffered.

He had his first seizures not long after he had been taken to hospital and from that day on there were regular seizures for nearly 11 years.

At the beginning of March 2017 he was found dead in his home where he lived alone after having suffered, the prosecution say, an epileptic fit.

– William Mousley QC, prosecuting

James Newton-Price QC, defending Mr Sutherland, told the court that the link between the incident and Mr Mills' death was disputed and said his earlier lifestyle of heavy drinking and drug-taking could have contributed to the cause of his death.

I am feeling relieved from all the stress and pressure, from the police putting me as a murderer for years.

– Mr Sutherland, speaking after being acquitted.