Former SAFC player was ‘like an animal’ when he fatally attacked 77-year-old father, court is told

A former professional footballer who was "like an animal" when he killed his elderly dad in a Christmas Eve attack has been jailed for more than a decade.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 4:56 pm

Ex-Sunderland AFC and Hartlepool United player Paul Conlon, 43, punched, throttled and hit Harry Conlon with a Converse shoe during the deadly violence.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the "gentle, kind and forgiving" 77-year-old former boxer, who died more than two weeks later, told police immediately afterwards he had "never been hit so hard".

As Conlon was taken to the police station, the now alcoholic with a series of convictions for violence against women, made rape threats against the officerswives and asked "if they knew who he was" in relation to his historic sports career.

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Police were called to Deansfield Close after reports of a disturbance and found Harry Conlon with head injuries consistent with an assault. He later died in hospital.
Police were called to Deansfield Close after reports of a disturbance and found Harry Conlon with head injuries consistent with an assault. He later died in hospital.

The tragedy happened at the home of Mr Conlon, who was just 5ft 5ins and weighed 8 stone, where he lived with his wife Linda, who witnessed the attack, in Deansfield Close, Sunderland, on December 24 last year.

The court heard the couple's daughter Lyndsey Green had arrived at the house for a Christmas visit with her two children and had understood her brother, who she did not want to be around, would not be at the house as he would be spending the festive season with his girlfriend.

But the court heard Conlon, who was drinking up to three bottles of wine per day, had been issued a restraining order to keep away from his girlfriend, so was at their parents' home.

Because of his presence, Mrs Green, who knew how her brother could behave, decided to leave and their "exasperated" father Mr Conlon said "I've had enough of this".

Ex-Sunderland footballer Paul Conlon who was sentenced to 11 years and 10 months for manslaughter after attacking his father on Christmas Eve

The court heard Conlon then "came stumbling downstairs, obviously intoxicated" and attacked the pensioner.

Prosecutor John Elvidge QC told the court: "On the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2020 he was attacked by his son, the defendant Paul Conlon.

"The attack was launched because Paul Conlon was enraged by a comment made by his father. The defendant took the remark as a personal slight and he responded with sustained violence.

"He knocked his father and mother to the floor and repeatedly punched his father about the head, throttled him and struck him with his footwear.

"Unsurprisingly, the 77-year-old man was completely overpowered.

"Harry Conlon was later to tell the police he had been given 'a good hiding' and he had 'never been hit so hard'."

The court heard Mrs Green had heard a "thud" and saw her mother and father on the floor as she was putting her children in her car and had contacted the police as she believed "he was going to kill her parents".

She said her brother had "completely lost control" and he was "like an animal", while her shout of 'get off my dad' had no affect at all.

The court heard Mr Conlon, who had bruising, cuts and a torn ear lobe, suffered bleeding on the brain, and quickly became unwell after the attack.

Mr Conlon told police who arrived at the house he had been punched "several times to the head".

He was filmed on an officer's body worn camera saying "my son's drunk, he bashed me".

Mr Conlon was also caught on camera saying that his son was an alcoholic who had fallen out with his girlfriend and "kicked off", which was a "regular thing".

He was taken to hospital by ambulance and had emergency neurological surgery but died from pneumonia on January 18.

The judge told him: "On Christmas Eve 2020 you attacked your father causing him to suffer a very serious head injury from which he died on January 18.

"This was a horrific assault. It must have been shocking and terrifying for those who witnessed it, your mother and sister."

The judge said Conlon had a "promising" start to life as a professional footballer and ran businesses when he left the sport but turned to drink around 17 years ago.

Justice Lambert told him: "You will have to live with the fact you killed your father and caused misery to your family for the rest of your life."

The court heard Conlon, of no fixed address, was convinced his family would not provide a statement to police about his behaviour and said his detention at the police station was "pointless".

Conlon signed for Sunderland in 1996 in controversial circumstances after bursting into Hartlepool United's senior side with four goals in 11 matches.

Sunderland were able to sign the forward for free after apparently exploiting a loophole in his Pools contract.

But he never played for the Black Cats' first team and drifted into non-league football.

Dapinder Singh QC, defending, said what happened was a "tragedy" and there had been happy family times in the past.

Mr Singh said Conlon has been a hard worker and a successful entrepreneur who has supported his family and lived a law abiding life at times.

He added: "It is difficult to come to terms with what he has done to his father."

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