Village mourns publican who tried to break up fight

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The Independent Online

But as he turned the key to the doors of the Star Inn, at just after 12.30am on Saturday, Mr Todd, 56, overheard some trouble on the village green.

He saw a group of teenagers attacking some young locals, one of whom he recognised.

The publican, described by his wife, Diane, as a "peace-loving and gentle man", moved to try to break up the fight.

As he approached, he recognised 20-year-old Kevin Flook, who was being kicked and punched on the ground.

The teenagers ran off, towards a nearby car park. Concerned that Mr Flook's attackers were getting away, Mr Todd followed them.

Some of the teenagers are then said to have got into the car, described by witnesses as a blue Mazda, and driven straight at him, killing him instantly.

Mrs Todd, 54, said: "My husband would do anything for anyone and hated anyone getting hurt. He was a peace-loving and gentle man. Everyone is devastated by his death."

Describing how she had been told that he had died trying to help the villager he recognised, she continued: "It is exactly the sort of thing he would do. I heard a car simply mowed him down.

"Whoever did this to my husband should be locked up forever. They have robbed us of a loving husband, father and grandfather."

Mr Todd had worked tirelessly for local charities, she said, and the villagers had rallied around in an "overwhelming" expression of support following his death.

Six teenagers have been arrested in connection with the murder and were being questioned by detectives last night. A 16-year-old girl, two men aged 18, and three 17-year-old boys were arrested on suspicion of murder, grievous bodily harm and violent disorder.

Police also recovered a blue Mazda 323, which they believed was involved in the incident, in the Kingswood area of Bristol. With the pub closed yesterday, flowers and cards began to pile up outside its doors. One floral tribute simply read, "Bob - our star", another, "The heart of our village has been tragically taken. May you rest in peace". As villagers tried to come to terms with the murder, the Rev Stuart Young remembered him during prayers in the local church, St Thomas a Beckett, in a service that was packed with friends of the landlord.

Later, Mr Young described the difficulties residents were experiencing in what was a "very much a typical English village".

"The mood here is one of shock and at this early stage there's a sense of disbelief," he said. "A feeling of 'it couldn't happen and it couldn't happen here'."

Superintendent Andy Francis, of Avon and Somerset Police, who is leading the investigation, appealed for anyone with any information to come forward, and said: "This was a tragic incident that took away the life of a man who was well known and respected within the village."

Mr Flook's family praised Mr Todd's devotion to helping youngsters in the village.

In a statement released through the police, they said: "Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies go out to Bob Todd's family at this time. A pillar of the community, Bob's only thought was to protect the young people of the village. Bob will be very much missed by all who knew him."