A shop worker at Harrods who killed a father with a single punch after he asked for a cigarette during a night out in Trafalgar Square has been jailed.
Lucas Antunes, 21, and Luis Abella, 22, had been drinking and dining with friends in London’s West End after finishing a shift at the department store before launching the assault on Desmond O’Beirne, 51, at around midnight on June 3 2017.
CCTV footage played at the Old Bailey showed the victim walking away from the group when Antunes landed a punch to the head, sending him sprawling to the ground, before Abella kicked him as he lay motionless.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury and died six months later on December 20 2017.
The court heard Antunes “began to brag how he had taken out the victim with a single punch” when he went back to work but fled to the United States following a public appeal in which police offered a £20,000 reward.
The pair were brought to justice after Abella’s cousin and Antunes’s girlfriend came forward after realising the seriousness of the attack, prosecutor John Clifford said.
Prosecutors offered no evidence against Abella on the manslaughter charge.
Judge Paul Dodgson jailed Antunes, who wiped tears from his eyes throughout the hearing, for three years and nine months, while Abella was handed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
The judge said: “An event that took a few seconds changed the lives of three people drastically, but many others would also suffer.
“Desmond O’Beirne lost his life as a result of what happened in those few seconds. That was an event that was intended by nobody.
“The two defendants in the dock, Antunes and Abella – both young men from hard-working families – in those few seconds acted in a manner that would lead them to the dock at the Old Bailey.”
He continued: “There is no doubt that anybody watching the CCTV would be shocked by the force that you, Antunes, used in punching someone whose only offence was to have bothered the group of which you were a part with a request for cigarettes and who would not go away when told to.
The judge added that he could not be sure Antunes boasted about the attack or that he had left the country to evade justice.
Mr O’Beirne’s sister, Vivienne Folan, who sat in the public gallery, said her brother grew up in Edgware and had been a “first-rate student” before working in the civil engineering and construction industries as a “highly skilled professional” specialising in steel fixing.
“My brother Desmond was a hard-working, larger than life character, who lived in Pimlico and worked around London,” she said in a witness statement.
“Desmond’s life was needlessly cut short because of a needless and cowardly attack by two men who showed no remorse and left my brother for dead.
“We, his family, have found the past 18 months extremely difficult in coming to terms with the brutal and senseless attack on Desmond and the pain and suffering he must have endured in the intervening six months prior to his death from his injuries.”
The court heard Antunes and Abella had been enjoying a night out with friends in the West End after finishing work at Harrods, where they worked through an agency, before the fatal attack.
“The two defendants and friends of theirs were enjoying an evening out in London and were in Trafalgar Square,” said the prosecutor.
“They were approached at one stage by Mr Desmond O’Beirne, who was intoxicated. He asked them in relatively hostile terms for a cigarette and the group gave him short shrift.
“Mr O’Beirne walked away from the group and the two defendants followed him.”
Mr Clifford continued: “Mr Antunes was the first to Mr O’Beirne. He punched him, Mr O’Beirne falls to the ground without any attempt to break his fall, which would suggest the punch had knocked him out,” he said.
“As Mr O’Beirne lay on the ground motionless, Mr Abella followed up the punch of Mr Antunes by kicking Mr O’Beirne to the body.”
John Swain, defending Abella, said that although his client was not responsible for causing Mr O’Beirne’s death, his conduct was “deplorable” and “cowardly” and “it is something that has weighed very heavily on him”.
Christopher Harding, representing Antunes, said: “It is a tragedy that Mr O’Beirne lost his life and it is my client who is ultimately responsible for his death.
“It is not, however, something which he intended.
“Indeed, he didn’t intend to cause any serious harm to Mr O’Beirne in June 2017, but it is something for which he is truly and deeply sorry.”
A Harrods spokesman has said the defendants were not members of staff but were employed by Buzz Retail, which provides workers for demonstrations within Harrods, both for less than a year, in 2017.
Scotland Yard’s Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh said the victim was a “completely harmless individual who had gone out that night for a beer and should have quietly gone back home again”.
“However, Abella and Antunes delivered a mindless and pointless attack on Desmond, punching him in the back of the head and kicking him while he was on the ground,” he said.
“He suffered injuries that would put him in a coma for six months. He never stood a chance.”