A HOMELESS street drinker has been jailed for killing a pensioner who he punched in a senseless and motiveless attack.

Craig Harrison, formerly of Newton Abbot, was already drunk by 6.40am when he swung a single punch at 69-year-old Tim Smith outside a shop in Paignton in March 2021.

Mr Smith asked workmen who were cleaning gutters nearby to protect him from Harrison, who had followed him from a bus station and hit him for ho reason.

The retired engineer did not realise how seriously he was injured but had suffered a bleed on the brain which caused him to become seriously unwell shortly afterwards.

He called the police to report the attack and was still waiting for a response an hour later when his condition deteriorated and he was taken to Torbay Hospital, where he was examined without receiving a full brain scan and discharged home.

He became sicker over the next week before collapsing and being taken to Derriford Hospital for brain surgery which failed to save him. He died on March 27, 16 days after the attack.

He died during the third Covid lockdown and his partner, his brother Clive, and the rest of his family were not allowed to visit him in hospital to say their farewells.

Harrison told a passer-by ‘he got in my way’ after throwing the punch and collapsed in an alcoholic stupor shortly after the attack, getting up again shortly afterwards and continuing to stagger around the centre of Paignton. 

He was living rough in a tent in a graveyard at the time and drinking three bottles of vodka a day. Mr Smith had a daily routine in which he walked his dog near his home in Brixham at 5.30 am before taking the first bus to Paignton where he went shopping and visited his brother Clive. 

CCTV from Paignton bus station showed Mr Smith getting off the bus and exchanging a friendly wave with Harrison, who was with a group of street drinkers.

Harrison, aged 46, formerly of Newton Abbot but now of no fixed address, admitted manslaughter and was jailed for five years and four months by Judge Robert Linford at Plymouth Crown Court.

He told him: 'Your utterly senseless, motiveless violence has devastated Mr Smith’s family. You approached him when you were inexplicably angry and aggressive and pushed him in the chest and punched him a blow to the head.

'He did not fall over but asked a nearby workman to keep you away. You were paralytic and aggressive. His death was sad and needless. You killed him. You killed an utterly innocent man for not more reason than you were nasty and drunk. 

'You have highly relevant previous convictions for offences which are not as serious as this but which clearly show your willingness to resort to attacks like this. Your myriad convictions were an awful predictor of what you were capable of.'

Mr Richard Posner, prosecuting, said Mr Smith retired to Devon after a career as an engineer in the Midlands and went to Paignton every day to visit his brother.

He said he was attacked near the Lloyd Maunder butchers’ shop in Victoria Road, Paignton, and started suffering symptoms when he was waiting for the police near Poundland.

He read excerpts from the victim impact statements of his partner Louise Hopper and nephew Matthew Smith. Mr Hopper wrote: 'I miss him terribly. He was irreplaceable and a lovely person.'

Matthew Smith said his father Clive had seen Tim as both a brother and a best friend and that his own health has suffered so greatly as a result of the shock and trauma of his death that he is now seriously ill. His brother said Tim had been ‘taken too soon’. 

Mr Paul Dentith, defending, said Harrison was in the grip of an alcohol and heroin addiction at the time and suffering from a suspected personality disorder and  PTSD as a result of childhood abuse. 

He said he is receiving treatment in custody and is truly remorseful for his crime. 

Mr Dentith said: 'He has sleepless nights and thinks every day about being responsible for another man’s death. It is on his mind every moment. He is full of regret and wishes he could turn the clock back.'