A teenager accused of the manslaughter of a dad-of-four he punched in a street row wept as he was cleared of the charge.
Jurors took less than three hours to acquit Matthew Curtis, 18, of the single count following a four-day trial.
Philip Long, 36, had been out with wife Hayley on August 3 last year when Mr Curtis struck him with a single punch, causing him to hit his head. Mr Long never recovered consciousness and later died, the trial was told.
Mrs Long gave evidence and told Mold Crown Court the couple had been together for between eight and nine years and were out to celebrate their forthcoming second wedding anniversary, which they were set to mark on August 5.
Her husband organised the night out at the Fat Boar in Wrexham as a surprise where they were joined by family and friends, she said.
They went to several bars following a meal and had a good time with Mrs Long adding: “We were all happy.”
She said the couple ended up in College Street in the early hours of August 4 and they became aware of an incident with a young woman “lashing out at a guy” in a doorway.
Giving evidence Mrs Long said: “We stopped to see if we could stop them from fighting and make sure she was all right. The male was just taking it.”
She said after the couple stopped “an arm came across me and hit Phil in the face” but she didn’t see who had struck him.
“He just fell backwards and didn’t stop himself,” she said. “He just went straight back. I just heard the thud of his head on the floor. I just dropped next to him.”
Mr Long had blood on his face and coming from his eye, she said.
“We were happy and going home. The night was done and it was our anniversary. We just wanted to have fun. Phil was really happy,” she added.
The court heard Mr Long had suffered a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain after he was punched and hit his head on the ground.
Doctors caring for Mr Long decided attempting surgery was “futile” due to the catastrophic nature of his injuries and he died in a specialist hospital in Stoke in the early hours of Tuesday, August 6 – the day after his anniversary.
Mr Curtis initially claimed he was not responsible and said somebody else struck Mr Long when he intervened in an incident involving a group.
The court heard in a subsequent statement the defendant said he was with a group in Wrexham and some of those people were fighting among one another. He told police Mr Long had intervened in the group argument and at one point pushed a man who fell to the floor.
The defendant claimed an angry Mr Long took two steps towards his friend prompting Mr Curtis to punch him once with the blow connecting with his left eye.
“The only reason I punched this male was to stop him assaulting my friend Adam again,” said Mr Curtis in a statement. He said he believed his actions were “reasonable and proportionate in the defence of another” and he did not intend for Mr Long “to receive the injuries he did or to end his life”.
Mr Curtis gave evidence in his own defence and told the court he had gone into Wrexham for his “first proper night out” on August 3 last year when two of his friends got into an altercation which saw them pushing and shoving one another and “going mad at each other”. The defendant told the court: “I was trying to stay out of it.”
The teenager told the court Mr Long “lost it” with one of his friends and used both hands to push the man to the floor, prompting Curtis to strike him. He said it was “panic” that saw him first claim someone else had thrown the punch.
Mr Curtis, of Gwersyllt, Wrexham, denied manslaughter and on Thursday he cried and shook in the dock as the jury returned its verdict.
Judge Rhys Rowlands said Mr Long’s family had acted with dignity during the trial and added: “Our thoughts are with them.”