THE family of a St Helens man killed in a brutal town centre assault say they are “devastated” that his attacker could be freed in less than a year’s time.
Killer Stephen Thomas, 26, who had initially denied both the murder and manslaughter of Darren Bolger, 40, dramatically changed his plea to guilty on the lesser charge at Liverpool Crown Court last week.
But Paul Bolger, the victim’s brother, says his family are upset that the court’s acceptance of the manslaughter charge means that Thomas, who has already been remanded in custody for 11 months, could soon walk free.
He said: “We’re all devastated that they accepted the lower charge. Nothing will ever bring Darren back but I don’t feel as if justice is being done.
“The lad (Thomas) is likely to get three to five years for taking our Darren’s life, which means he could be out in no time.”
Paul Bolger also revealed how his brother’s life had spiralled downwards in recent years as he struggled to come to terms with the death of their mother, Christine, 60, four years ago.
He added: “Darren was never the same. He totally changed when he found our mum after she had fallen down the stairs. Two days later she was dead.
“Darren was a really lovable, popular person though. Two-hundred people turned out at his funeral.”
Darren Bolger, who weighed less than nine stone, suffered a fractured skull during the January 27 attack, which led to fatal bleeding and swelling on the brain.
Thomas, who had only been released from prison that day and previously stood trial in June, admitted hitting Mr Bolger in an alleyway near the Phoenix Brow Salvation Army hostel, but insisted it was just a “fight that had gone wrong”.
A schoolboy who witnessed the incident told the court he saw “a squabble” and Mr Bolger being struck in the face, which caused him to fall to the ground.
The fatal fracture was said to have most likely been sustained “when he fell to the floor and smacked his head on the surface”.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte QC claimed that marks on the victim’s face indicated that the attacker had used a foot as well as his fists.
The court also heard how Thomas, of no fixed address, had boasted about the attack to pals just minutes later.
Thomas is due to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on January 9.