Harrods worker who killed man wih single punch after he asked for a cigarette is jailed

Attacker 'began to brag how he had taken out the victim with a single punch', court heard

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Friday 08 February 2019 18:19
CCTV video shows moment Desmond O'Beirn is assaulted in Trafalgar Square before later dying from his injuries

A Harrods worker who killed a homeless man with a single punch after he asked for a cigarette has been jailed.

Lucas Antunes, 21, had been drinking and dining with friends after finishing a shift with fellow agency worker Luis Abella, 22, at the department store on 3 June 2017.

After Desmond O’Beirne approached them at around midnight in Trafalgar Square, he asked them for a cigarette, but the pair gave the 51-year-old short shrift and he started to walk away.

CCTV footage played at London's Old Bailey showed the victim walking away from the group when Antunes landed a punch to the head, sending him sprawling to the ground. Abella then kicked him as he lay motionless.

A witness said they saw father-of-one Mr O’Beirne bleeding heavily from the mouth and head. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and died six months later on 20 December, 2017.

Desmond O’Beirne died six months after he was assaulted in Trafalgar Square last year
Desmond O’Beirne died six months after he was assaulted in Trafalgar Square last year

The court heard Antunes “began to brag how he had taken out the victim with a single punch” when he went back to work.

He later fled to the US following a public appeal which saw police offer a £20,000 reward for information about the attack.

The pair were brought to justice after Abella’s cousin and his girlfriend came forward when they realised the seriousness of the attack, prosecutor John Clifford said.

Antunes, from Tottenham, north London, pleaded guilty to manslaughter while Abella, from Lambeth, south London, admitted attempted assault occasioning actual bodily harm at an earlier hearing.

Prosecutors offered no evidence against Abella on the manslaughter charge.

Antunes punched Mr O’Beirne on the head as he walked away, sending him sprawling to the ground

Judge Paul Dodgson jailed Antunes, who wiped tears from his eyes throughout the hearing, for three years and nine months. Abella was handed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

“An event that took a few seconds changed the lives of three people drastically, but many others would also suffer," the judge said. “Desmond O’Beirne lost his life as a result of what happened in those few seconds. That was an event that was intended by nobody. The two defendants in the dock, Antunes and Abella – both young men from hard-working families – in those few seconds acted in a manner that would lead them to the dock at the Old Bailey.”

Luis Abella kicked Mr O’Beirne as he lay motionless

He added: “There is no doubt that anybody watching the CCTV would be shocked by the force that you, Antunes, used in punching someone whose only offence was to have bothered the group of which you were a part with a request for cigarettes and who would not go away when told to. I of course recognise that you did not contemplate at all that your act would lead to his death but you must have known that to have hit him with such force would lead to some injury and perhaps some serious injury.”

The judge added that he could not be sure Antunes boasted about the attack or that he had left the country to evade justice.

A Harrods spokesman said the defendants were not members of staff but were employed by Buzz Retail, which provides workers for demonstrations within Harrods, both for less than a year, in 2017.

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Scotland Yard’s Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh said the victim was a “completely harmless individual who had gone out that night for a beer and should have quietly gone back home again”.

“However, Abella and Antunes delivered a mindless and pointless attack on Desmond, punching him in the back of the head and kicking him while he was on the ground,” he said.

“He suffered injuries that would put him in a coma for six months. He never stood a chance.”

Additional reporting by Press Association