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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK


Football fan jailed for killing rival supporter

Ill-feeling on the pitch spilt over into violence between Gillingham and Fulham fans

A man who killed a fellow football fan with a single punch has been jailed for four years.

David Sillito reports from the Royal Courts of Justice
Barry Cullen, 31, of Whitstable, Kent, attacked Matthew Fox outside Gillingham's Priestfield stadium during a clash between rival fans after the Division Two clash between Gillingham and Fulham in March this year.

The court heard that there was a history of ill feeling between the two club's supporters dating from a brawl between players during the 1996/7 season.

[ image: Matthew Fox...suffered immediate brain haemorrhage]
Matthew Fox...suffered immediate brain haemorrhage
Matthew Fox, a 24-year-old Fulham supporter, from Purley, Surrey, died from a single blow after a ring on Cullen's hand burst an artery in his head.

Cullen, a Gillingham fan with no record of football violence, denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter back in July. He was sentenced on Friday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

'All too familiar football violence'

The judge, Mr Justice Penry-Davey, said: "The sort of scenes this court saw on video of the events at and after the Gillingham v Fulham match on March 28 this year are sadly only too familiar in a sport that is cursed by the gratuitous violence of some of those who claim to be football supporters."

He said he accepted Cullen was not a habitual football hooligan and the attack was out of character.

But he said: "Even if it is right, which I accept, that you were not involved in the outset of the violence that day, instead of moving away and having nothing to do with it you ran towards it and joined in with a will for no good reason and the young man, who tragically died at your hands, had not acted aggressively towards you or threatened you in any way."

'Hit hard on the back of the head'

The judge said Cullen was a "physically powerful man".

He told him: "You ran up to Matthew Fox and you punched him on the head with considerable force with your fist and you had on your index finger that very large ring that I have seen this morning."

Matthew Fox's father Ian: "Cullen is a cowardly thug"
Relatives and friends of both the defendant and his victim packed the courtroom for the heaing.

Later Matthew's father Ian, 50, said the family was "devastated" by the sentence.

[ image: Matthew Fox's parents, Ian and Pam Fox:
Matthew Fox's parents, Ian and Pam Fox: "We are devastated"
With his wife Pam and daughter Bonnie, 20, by his side, he said: "How can our son's life be worth four years of his?

"With remission he will be back home in no time at all. This crime was no accident. It was a deliberate act of extreme violence."

Mr Fox said Cullen had punched his son from behind.

He said: "I am sick of hearing that Cullen is a family man - something he has denied our son of ever being.

"Our life will never be normal again and the only place we can visit our son is in the cemetery."

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