A moving tribute has been paid to Len ‘Banana’ Saunders a “spirited charity worker” who killed by a violent, drink and drug-fuelled teenager.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Luke Woods, 17, punched or elbowed Len Saunders, 65, in the face in St Helens town centre after asking him for a cigarette.
Woods had been drinking large amounts of vodka and taking drugs in the hours leading up to the incident on July 21.
He was with a 15-year-old friend when he saw Mr Saunders and his friend Gregory Taylor who were coming back from a meeting.
Woods stopped suddenly and asked the two men if they had a cigarette. Both men said no and would have continued on their way.
Peter Hussey, who prosecuted the case for MerseyCheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Then, without warning or provocation, the defendant delivered a sudden blow, of significant force, into the face of Mr Saunders.
“His friend described it as needless, and ‘vicious’. Nobody present saw it coming and Mr Saunders did not react to it at all.
“Mr Saunders was felled instantly, falling straight backwards to the ground, without breaking his fall, where the back of his head struck against the road surface with a sound which Mr Taylor described as ‘horrific’ and ‘upsetting’ and Woods’ friend as ‘big, loud’ and ‘scary’. Mr Saunders stayed down where he fell.
“As a direct result of the attack, Mr Saunders suffered injuries from which he never regained consciousness. He passed away 9 days later in hospital, on Sunday 30th July 2017.”
Woods was eventually traced and arrested at his home in Union Street, St Helens. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter at an early stage.
He said in a prepared statement in a second interview with police that he was “truly sorry and remorseful” and wanted to apologise for what he had done.
He was sentenced yesterday (Wednesday) at Liverpool Crown Court to four years and four months detention in a youth offenders institution.
The judge explained that the sentence took into account the age of the defendant.
In a victim personal statement read out to the court by Mr Saunders niece, Heba Soliman, she said: “Len was a beautiful soul who dedicated his life to charity and volunteering work.
“He was a talented actor, poet and musician who never stopped helping people, even in his final moments. He has been sorely missed by all those whose life he touched.”
A charity has been set up in his memory. His family have given the details to donate to the charity as https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/len-saunders.