Banker died after fatal attack by stranger in West End, court hears

An international banker fell to the pavement “like a plank of wood” after he was fatally assaulted by a complete stranger while on a night out in the West End of London, a court heard. Paul Mason, 52, CEO for Qatar National Bank, dined at the exclusive Ivy Club before he was killed by electrician Steven Allan, 34, on December 15, 2020. Mr Allan, of Hook, Hampshire, who admits manslaughter but denies murder at the trial at the Old Bailey, had been drinking in various bars and accused Mr Mason of stealing his friend’s mobile phone before knocking him to the ground. As Mr Mason tried to get up Allan hit him with an uppercut and witnesses heard the sickening crunch as his skull made contact with the pavement. Allan, who was traced via CCTV, shouted at his victim “where’s your fight now?” as the Mr Mason lay senseless, the Old Bailey heard. Eyewitnesses described hearing a “horrible noise” as Mr Mason’s head had hit the ground.

Doctors battled to save Mr Mason and even carried out a procedure to replace part of his skull with a sheet of titanium, but he died six months later on 4 June 2021.

On the night in question Mr Mason had put a female friend in a black cab after they had spent the night at the Ivy Club and was making his way home in West Street when he was confronted by Allan after 10.30pm.

Mr Mason tried to continue his journey but Allan followed him and punched him with his right fist, knocking him to the ground. Jane Bickerstaff, KC, prosecuting, said: “He appears then to lean down towards Mason, who is at the same time trying to shrug him off and move away from the defendant.

“The defendant then punched Mr Mason a second time while he was trying to get back to his feet. He then punches him a third time with an upper cut that causes Mr. Mason to fly back and land on his back with his head hitting the pavement. The defendant then appears to take Mr Mason’s phone from him and hangs up.

Ms Bickerstaff said however there was no evidence of any property was missing from Mr Mason’s person.

Registered nurse Laura Gil Selva saw Allan aggressively shouting at the victim and described him throwing a forceful punch and causing the victim’s face to bleed.

Ms Bickerstaff said: “She saw that as Mr Mason went to the floor for the final time, his head hit the floor making a loud sound. She recalls that as she sought to help the victim, the defendant said to her, something like, “Don’t touch him or help him. You don’t know what he did. He’s kidnapped my nephew.”

Another witness, Vaki Dhaval, was on his way home after having a meal with friends saw that Mr Mason with his hand in front of him in a defensive manner telling Allan to ‘stay away.’

Ms Bickerstaff said: “He saw the assault and heard Mr Allan say, after he had punched the victim to the ground, “Where is your fight now? Show me your fight now!”

“He saw that the defendant continued shouting as if he was trying to see if there was any possibility to continue the attack.”

Eyewitness Gary McGuinness told the court he had been drinking with a friend he had not seen since February 2020 in a Brewdog pub.

Because London was in Tier Three Covid restrictions, they had a meal with their drinks and all the pubs closed at 10.30pm.

Mr McGuinness said that when he left the pub and waited outside for his friend to use the toilet he saw three men talking in the street.

He said he saw Mr Allan who approached him before the confrontation with Mr Mason happened.

He told the court: “He told me he and his friend were going to a strip club and his friend had been taken into the strip club. He mentioned being streetwise and that he wasn’t going to go into a strange door in a strange building and being robbed.

“I’m a chatty person and I wasn’t intimidated by him. He said “don’t leave me alone, just stay with me while I wait”.

“I asked him if he would mind calling his friend to see where he was as I wanted to leave. He used his phone as if he was making phone calls. I then looked up and a gentleman was coming towards me and simultaneously answering the phone.

I turned to the guy on my left and said “is that your friend?” as it looked like a call had been made and he’d answered the phone.

“The guy looked up across the road and essentially just ran across the road towards this person who’d just answered the phone and began a scuffle, a dramatic looking scuffle.

“He didn’t say anything before he left my side. What was happening in front of my eyes didn’t make sense so I was trying to understand it, were these people friends? Was this a jackass thing or a joke?

“It looked like some sort of lads banter in some weird way because it was so dramatic I couldn’t equate why it would be happening otherwise.

“The gentleman who answered the phone then fell to the ground as part of the scuffle. There was a moment when he managed to get back on his feet again, and then there was a kind of decisive hit, navy jacket man [Allan] hit the gentleman and caught him so he fell rigidly onto the pavement and it was an audible noise of his head hitting the ground.

“He didn’t do anything to break his own fall, he was completely rigid and fell down like a plank of wood. His head hitting the ground appeared to make a squelching noise, a horrible noise really.

“Because all the bars were closing at a similar time the intersection was laden with people and that noise brought everyone to a standstill. There was a collective intake of breath and everyone stopped.

“He was lying flat on his back with his arms in front of him still holding his phone. Navy jacket man took the phone out of his hands and said “this is my friend’s phone, the guy had my friend’s phone.”

“When I moved over there he was struggling to breathe, there was a kind of gurgling sound which was very disturbing. Three other gentlemen said we should move him onto his side.”

He said Allan then disappeared from the scene while members of the public tried to help Mr Mason.

The trial continues.

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