|Three people have been sentenced for their roles leading up to the violent death of a man in an Eastbourne street.
Lee Molineau, 46, of no fixed address, died at Hurstwood Park neurological unit in Haywards Heath on Wednesday 31 July last year after being assaulted seven days earlier.
The trio appeared for trial at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday 22 April. All three had been charged with murder, but entered guilty pleas to lesser offences, which were accepted by the prosecution and the court.
Rossi Henderson, 25. of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five and half years in prison.
Hayley Whittaker, 23, of Honeycrag Lane, Polegate, also pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Ruby Heard, 26, of Lexden Drive, Seaford, whose murder charge had been dropped by the prosecution at an earlier hearing, but who had been pleading not guilty to affray, changed her plea to that offence to guilty on Tuesday afternoon before her trial for that offence began. She was sentenced to eight months in prison but will not serve time in prison because of time spent in custody on remand awaiting trial.
Lee suffered a serious head injury following an argument between him and the two women in Seaside Road, Eastbourne, during which Henderson intervened and punched the victim to the ground.
Detective Superintendent Ian Pollard of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said; “On a busy street that evening a chance encounter between people hardly known to each other led to an alcohol-fuelled petty argument, which in turn escalated into unwarranted acts of violence, and tragically culminated in an innocent man losing his life.
“Lee was sitting in the street and had been drinking but causing no trouble whatsoever when Whittaker and Heard, who had both been drinking all evening, came by and for no known reason starting shouting at Lee and an argument erupted between the three of them.
“Whittaker decided to call for support from a party at a flat overlooking the scene and Henderson, who was there and did not know either of the women, but who had a very brief altercation with Lee in the street earlier that night, took it upon himself to rush straight outside. Although initially representing himself as the peacemaker, he then without any warning punched Lee straight in the face.
“Lee fell straight down and his head hit the pavement or wall, breaking his skull and causing injuries from which he tragically never recovered.
“Not content with this Whittaker then kicked Lee as hard as she could. Henderson then raised his fists in apparent triumph and all three fled the scene. However our enquiries resulted in their arrests and in their being brought to justice for their appalling behaviour which led to the death of an innocent and inoffensive man.”
In a statement Lee’s sister-in-law Kay Perkins, speaking on behalf of the family, who were in court, said; “We would like to thank everyone who have supported us over the last 8 months, especially Detective Constable Jo Barber who has been our rock throughout. We couldn’t have got through this without her support. Although it will not bring Lee back we feel that justice has been done and appropriate sentences have been given. We can now try to move on and rebuild our lives.”