A FORMER cage fighter has been jailed for five years after choking to death a man who accused him of making a pass at his girlfriend two years earlier.
Thomas Mawson, 36, used a fighting manoeuvre called a “rear naked chokehold” from behind to cause force to Bryan Knox’s neck until he fell unconscious and later died.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Mawson took a picture of Mr Knox face down on the ground before he began to panic, after realising the extent of his injuries and called friends for help.
Attempts were made to revive the 32-year-old victim, but they were unsuccessful and police attended the scene where Mawson admitted choking him.
The court heard how Mr Knox heard rumours that his partner Joanne Bainbridge had made a pass at Mawson two years earlier, and he questioned her about it on June 7 last year.
When she told Mr Knox it was Mawson who made a pass at her, the victim went out to search for him with a view of a confrontation.
Mr Knox was approached by the police at 2.30am and he told officers he was looking for his sister before going to bed for the evening.
However, he resumed his search the next morning and contacted a mutual friend to warn Mawson that if he did not get in touch he would smash up his mother’s home.
Mawson contacted Mr Knox and drove to his home address in Washington before following him in his car to a private road, where they decided to have an organised fight which they called a “straightener”.
Nick Dry, prosecuting, said: “The defendant is a former cage fighter known to favour the rear naked chokehold, which involves the attacker being behind and using force to the neck.
“Sometimes there is temporarily loss of consciousness, but not serious injury.
“An image was found showing Mr Knox face down on the ground just a moment or so before he contacted others panicking.
“A witness heard him on the telephone telling someone what had happened and she called an ambulance.”
Mr Dry told the court how a hammer was recovered from the scene, but there was no evidence to show either of them had used it.
Tim Roberts, QC, defending Mawson, told the court how the defendant used the fighting move as a response to Mr Knox coming at him with a hammer.
Mr Roberts said: “On that Sunday morning Mr Mawson had no intention to commit any criminal offence at all.
“He was not influenced by drink or drugs when he received an urgent demand to go to see Mr Knox or else he was going to come to Mr Mawson’s mother’s address.
“This crime was the result of a response by Mr Mawson to a confrontation which was not an instigation.
“Mr Knox got up walked away back to his van. Mr Mawson thought it was over.
“Then he instigated the claw hammer. It was during that reprise that the force was used.
“What he was doing was restraining by choking Mr Knox until he dropped the weapon and he would leave him alone.
“This was respondent behaviour not instigating behaviour.”
Mawson, of Alwin, Rickelton, in Washington, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The Recorder of Newcastle, James Goss, QC, told Mawson: “You participated in what was known as a rear naked choke hold cutting off the blood supply from the brain which is particularly dangerous.
“If you had not been prepared to take part in the fight in the first place, none of this would have happened.
“I accept trouble came to you, but none the less you were prepared to take part in the unlawful fight.
“You are a serious risk to the public of greater harm. A custodial sentence is necessary to protect the public.”
Judge Goss sentenced Mawson to five years in prison with an extended three years on licence.
‘A life sentence of grief’
BRYAN Knox’s mum Beverley Beresford told the court in a personal statement: “A child is precious and I know he was 32 but he was my son and my baby.
“We are going to serve a life time sentence of grief.
“My granddaughter said I want to die so I can be with my daddy.
“It was just so devastating. Life is precious and he should have had the ambulance service called to give him a fighting chance.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fairlamb, from Northumbria Police’s Major Crime Team, said: “The violent actions of Mawson have resulted in a man losing his life and left an entire family devastated. He can reflect on this while behind bars.
“Our condolences go out to the family. We recognise that no sentence will bring back their loved one and our sympathies remain with them.
“Violent crime will not be tolerated by Northumbria Police and the force will continue to do all it can to bring offenders to justice.”