A man has been jailed over the death of popular off-duty Wythenshawe police officer PC Gareth Francis, who was killed by a single punch after a night out to celebrate his birthday.
Westley Holland, aged 21, of Laburnum Way, Stockport, was jailed for four and a half years after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.
Gareth, aged 28, died after his head hit the pavement when Holland delivered a single lethal punch following an argument when Gareth was on his way home after a night out with family and friends.
Gareth joined Greater Manchester Police in 2007 and patrolled the Wythenshawe area every day. His colleagues were said to be devastated by the killing.
On Saturday 19 January Gareth went to watch Manchester City with his father and some friends. After the game he went into Manchester city centre celebrating his birthday.
At around midnight Gareth and three friends left Manchester and got a taxi back to Edgeley, in Stockport where they live.
They went to a takeaway on Castle Street, bought some food and started making their way home. While walking down Castle Street the group saw Wesley Holland who was standing outside another takeaway with two of his friends. There is a history of a previous fallout between the two groups.
Holland and one of his friends walked down an alleyway towards Carlisle Street and onto a car park at the back of The Pineapple pub. Gareth and two of his friends followed them and words were exchanged.
Holland then ran off and made his way back to the Sir Robert Peel pub, while Gareth and his friends continued their walk home.
While standing outside the pub, Holland met another friend and told him he had been “jumped” by three men and asked for his friends help to find them.
Holland and his friend then went looking for Gareth and his two friends. They eventually came across them at the junction of Bulkeley Street and Castle Street.
A further argument took place before Holland started to walk away. He then heard a further comment and marched back to Gareth, punching him without warning in the face.
The force of the blow propelled Gareth backwards, his head crashing into the pavement.
He immediately fell unconscious and Holland and his friend walked back towards the Sir Robert Peel, leaving Gareth on the floor.
A number of pubgoers came out and tended to Gareth and an ambulance was called. He was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital where he died a short time later.
A post mortem examination concluded Gareth died from a head injury following a single punch.
Holland was arrested later that day.
Senior Investigating Officer Duncan Thorpe, said: “The consequences of what Holland did have been devastating for both Gareth’s family, his partner, friends and for his colleagues in the police force.
“While Holland may not have intended to take Gareth’s life, once he took the decision to punch him he was reckless to the potential consequences and did nothing to assist him after he had fallen to the ground.
“His single punch has led to a tragic waste of a young life and he will now spend the rest of his life living with the consequences.
“This case once again demonstrates the dreadful outcomes possible when people try to settle disputes with their fists.”
Charlotte Rimmer, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Although no outcome can compensate Gareth’s family and friends for their devastating loss, I hope that they can find some comfort in the fact that the person responsible has now been brought to justice.”