Two men who killed an inspirational young footballer and expectant father after a “misplaced joke” have been jailed for launching a “violent, drunken” attack on their victim.
Matlock Town FC midfielder Jordan Sinnott died in hospital after suffering a fractured skull and brain damage in the assault in the centre of Retford, Nottinghamshire, in the early hours of January 25.
His mother, Mel Tait, addressing his killers in court during their sentencing, told them: “You don’t deserve to have a life.”
Mr Sinnott’s partner, Kelly Bossons, also revealed that, a week before her partner’s funeral, she found out she was 12 weeks pregnant with his child.
At a sentencing hearing at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday, Cameron Matthews, 22, was jailed for eight years and three months.
He had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter after admitting throwing the fatal punches.
But it was Kai Denovan, of Collins Walk, Retford – who was found guilty of manslaughter after a trial – who instigated the attack, the judge said.
Jailing 23-year-old Denovan for 11 years, Judge John Burgess told him he had “played a leading role in the group”.
It had been he who made the “joke”, and then thrown the first punch during an earlier incident in a pub, when he took exception to Mr Sinnott’s response.
After Mr Sinnott and his friends had walked away from further trouble, out of the pub and up the street, Denovan “pointed them out”, and reignited the earlier violence.
“It was your grudge,” the judge told him.
Jurors heard that Denovan “flew immediately into a rage” after the footballer joined in with what Mr Sinnott had believed to be the defendant’s “self-deprecating humour”.
During Denovan’s trial, the court heard that Matthews was “taking over” from Denovan, who was “plainly hell-bent on trouble” – and who had allegedly punched Mr Sinnott twice in the face inside a pub called The Vine.
Prosecutor Michael Auty QC told jurors that Mr Sinnott was willing to apologise for any offence caused, but described Denovan, Matthews and a third man, Sean Nicholson, as a “pack hunting down and exacting retribution”.
Denovan caught Mr Sinnott with what one witness described as a “haymaker”, but it was Matthews, of Denman Close, Retford, who struck the fatal blows.
He hit “vulnerable” and dazed Mr Sinnott “two or three times”, causing the father-to-be to strike his head on the ground.
Jurors heard it had been an off-hand remark by Denovan himself that triggered the fatal attack.
Denovan, Matthews and Nicholson had followed Mr Sinnott and two friends, Ben Bossons and Adam Towlson, into The Vine, before telling the victim he was a “good-looking lad” and would have no trouble “pulling girls” – unlike himself, who was “fat and ginger”.
“Yes, I can see that,” Mr Sinnott replied.
The judge said Mr Sinnott’s death had been the result of that “drunken, violent reaction to a misplaced, misinterpreted joke”.
“His death as been described as a tragedy – that is exactly what it is,” he said.
“A mother and father lost a son, Kelly Bossons has lost a partner.
“Her unborn child has lost its father.”
The judge went on: “You both intended to assault him and you both did; the fact the fatal punches were not delivered by you, Kai Denovan, does not exonerate you”
“In fact it was your perceived grievance that led to violence.
“You’d had far too much to drink and I am sure that had a lot to do with your behaviour that night.
“You made a self-deprecating remark to a man you didn’t know – it was meant to be funny.
“Jordan Sinnott’s reply was meant to be funny too.
“You didn’t take it as such and you were offended by what he said.
“What followed was a gross over-reaction to what you saw as an insult.”
Had the matter ended there, the judge said he doubted police would even have been called, but Denovan’s next actions caused the fatal confrontation.
Judge Burgess said: “You, Kai Denovan, spotted the group ahead of you, you pointed them out to Cameron Matthews, and you began to shout abuse.”
Mr Sinnott then “opened his arms and said words to the effect it was just a joke and ‘we don’t want any trouble’”.
“But you did,” said the judge.
“You, Kai Denovan, went up to Jordan and struck him with a blow of considerable force, described in the trial as a haymaker.”
He added: “It was you, Cameron Matthews, who stuck Jordan at least twice, possibly three times.
“It was you who put him down.”
The judge said it was accepted that the men “never intended to cause death or really serious injury”.
“But the consequences of what you did are no less harmful,” he said.
“There is no sentence I can pass to heal the pain they (the family) feel.”
The third man, Nicholson, 22, of Beechways, Retford, admitted affray in connection with the street brawl, and was jailed for 14 months.