Father's pub death treated as `suspicious'

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The Independent Online

Police investigating the death of a 60-year-old man who died while trying to rescue his daughter from a pub fight said last night that they had not ruled out treating the incident as murder.

John Burge suffered a heart attack after going to the aid of his daughter, Helen, 17, who was assaulted outside a pub on Sunday night. He was not attacked but detectives said they intended to submit a report to the Crown Prosecution Service and they had not discounted a murder charge.

Mr Burge, who had bypass heart surgery six years ago, ran to the Fox and Hounds pub near his home in Oxford after hearing that Helen and a girlfriend had been punched by a gang waiting outside.

Sally Hendy, the pub manager, said that the gang - including young men and women - had hit the girls in the face. "One went to get the father from the house next door and he came out to help," she said. "He fell to the ground. Someone called the police and ambulance but I think he was dead when they arrived."

Superintendent Cressida Dick said a post-mortem examination had shown that Mr Burge died from a heart attack. "[He] appeared to have received no assault injuries that would have contributed to his death," she said.

"He died, directly or indirectly, as a result of this incident. Clearly, that has to be treated as a suspicious death. We will be sending a report to the CPS. It would be wrong to prejudice what view the CPS or a coroner might take by discussing possible charges."

Despite attempts by paramedics and police to revive him, Mr Burge was pronounced dead on arrival at John Radcliffe hospital.

Police said that several young people were involved in the confrontation while others leaving the pub were looking on.

The pub's landlord, Nigel Rich, said: "There was a gang in here who left at about 11.45pm. They had done nothing wrong and they all left quite happily. I was busy clearing up and then the next thing I knew the police were here. There were a group of people and a body lying on the floor outside."

t Muggers who attacked two elderly blind people on an Easter morning stroll were yesterday branded "despicable" by police.

John Butcher, 82, was carrying a white stick and was leaning on the arm of Gladys Wainwright, 76, as they walked to a friend's house in York for Easter Sunday lunch when the two young robbers struck.

It was the first time Mr Butcher, of York, had gone out walking after a lengthy illness, according to Ms Wainwright, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Ms Wainwright lost pounds 100 in cash and her house keys.

Inspector Geoff Dodd of York police said: "This was a cynical crime, preying on people who are not only elderly but also unable to defend themselves in any way because of their blindness. It is despicable."