A drunk builder who punched and killed a Good Samaritan who had asked him to stop shouting in the street was today jailed for six years and six months.
Darren Munnelly had just returned home after taking his mother to the theatre when he was attacked by Declan Grant.
Mr Munnelly, a popular community fundraiser and father-of-two, had gone outside to remonstrate with 22-year-old Grant who was shouting outside the home of a former girlfriend.
Grant responded by punching 46-year-old Mr Munnelly twice to the face and left him lying on the ground in Lincoln, just after midnight on July 25.
The second punch immediately incapacitated Mr Munnelly and despite the efforts of neighbours to save him he suffered a fatal haemorrhage.
Peter Joyce QC, prosecuting, told the court there was no doubt Grant was the aggressor and had not been acting in self defence.
The court heard Mr Munnelly had spent the evening “spoiling” his mother by taking her to the theatre as a retirement present.
He also cooked food and delivered it to people in need during the coronavirus pandemic and raised money for the homeless.
Mr Joyce said: “Mr Munnelly had returned home not particularly late after a very respectable evening with his mother when he took exception to Mr Grant.
“He told Mr Grant to stop shouting and disturbing the neighbourhood. Mr Grant’s response was to attack him.”
Grant fled into the home of his former girlfriend and admitted he had a scrap and punched a man. She went outside and tried to help Mr Munnelly.
The court heard Grant was drunk and just two hours earlier had been involved in another altercation with his then girlfriend at a taxi queue in St Mary’s Street, Lincoln, which resulted in two 999 calls.
His attack on Mr Munnelly also occurred just 10 days after he was tasered for jumping on a police car.
Mr Joyce read out moving victim impact statements from Mr Munnelly’s mother Karen, his two sons, and his sister Cheryl.
In her statement Mrs Munelly said: “We had such a lovely evening, I cannot understand how it ended in such tragedy.
“In hospital it was unbelievable to see our son in such a state,” she added.
“It is a life sentence for us, losing our beloved son, Darren.”
Mr Munnelly’s eldest son Sean, who regularly watched Manchester United and played snooker with his father, added: “My whole family can not understand what happened, only on a night out with his mother.”
Grant, of St Mary’s Street, Lincoln, admitted the manslaughter of Mr Munnelly.
Gordon Aspden QC, mitigating, told the court Grant had written a letter in which he expressed true remorse.
In the letter Grant wrote: “I am truly, truly sorry for what I did.”
Grant added that all he could hope is that in a very long time Mr Munnelly’s family could forgive him.
The court heard Grant was placed in local authority care at the age of eleven after a family break-up but later moved to Lincoln from Scunthorpe and worked hard in the building trade.
Passing sentence Judge Simon Hirst made it plain no sentence could put a value on the priceless life of Mr Munnelly.
But the Judge told Grant his actions were aggravated by his previous convictions, the use of two blows and his drunk behaviour in a residential street.
Judge Hirst told him: “Outside your former girlfriend’s home you were drunk and shouting for her to let you in.
“Darren Munnelly was a neighbour. He came out to remonstrate with you and to ask you to stop shouting in the street.
“Your response was to punch him twice to the face.”
Following the case, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Myszczyszyn, of EMSOU Major Crime, said: “The most heartbreaking aspect of this whole case is that if those punches had not been thrown, we would not be here. A family wouldn’t have lost their loved one. A community wouldn’t be mourning.
“Yet just two punches were thrown in anger, and they claimed Darren’s life. Each and every one of his family and friends have felt the profound impact that his death has caused.
“We hope that the conclusion of the court case today means that they are now able to draw a line under this tragedy, and move forward remembering Darren in a positive way.”
Darren’s family shared tributes and spoke of the impact his death has had on their lives.
Son Sean Falkinder said that the day in July turned their lives upside down forever.
“Not a single minute has passed where the tragic passing of my dad hasn’t been the overriding thought on my mind with everything else becoming secondary,” he said.
“My dad was loved by all who had the pleasure of meeting him and his passing has affected far more afield than just our immediate family and friends.”
He added: “Father and son, the best of friends, I thank you for everything you taught me about becoming a man. I hope to keep making you proud every single day. We may never get another gig, duet or frame together, but we will always have our memories. Remembering you always, Sean.”
Darren also leaves teenage son Jack.
“My dad was like my best mate, I told him loads of stuff. I was with him every weekend and we did everything together. Since he’s been gone I don’t know what words to use,” said Jack.
Parents, Billy and Karen, said Darren brought positivity to their lives, and the lives of others.
A Lincoln resident born and bred, he grew up in the West End area of the city, and had strong connections to his local community. Some of his friends dated back to primary school.
They remember a son invested in his local community, who spent lockdown developing a love of cooking and provided meals for people in need.
His life revolved around family trips, visits to the New Theatre Royal with his mum, socialising, and he was known for bringing his positive energy to others.
He also loved looking after his tropical fish and two hamsters, Skittles and Aspalls – named after a favourite tipple.
In a joint tribute, they said: “Darren was the most perfect son you could have. He was happy go lucky, and just lived in the moment. He was such a tremendously popular person loved by the community, someone who was very kind to other people. He will be missed and loved greatly by all of us.”
His avid love of music is one memory big sister Cheryl said she will carry with her, where he was the self-described “best jiver” around.
Cheryl said: “Darren was a very special brother to me, he was one in a million. The friendship and bond between us growing up was unique. He had the best personality with the biggest heart.
“We spent 46 Christmas days together as a family. I will remember our laughs together, that cheeky grin and those crystal blue eyes and all the wonderful memories of my loving, funny, kind brother who meant the world to me.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.