Family describe 'torturous' pain of punch victim's 18-month coma caused by Northamptonshire killer

Peter Roberts died 18 months after Sam Whittet punched him in Brafield-On-The-Green working men's club in December 2016
Peter Roberts died 18 months after Sam Whittet punched him in Brafield-On-The-Green working men's club in December 2016

The family of Peter Roberts, who died after 18 months in a coma following an unprovoked attack, described their devastation at losing him as his killer was jailed yesterday (Monday).

Peter, then 53, was punched by Sam Whittet, 24, of Knuston Spinney in Irchester, on December 10, 2016, at Brafield-On-The-Green Working Men's Club when he attempted to calm Whittet down as he was in a drunken rage.

The much-loved husband and father had been at the club with his wife, Brenda, and his daughter, Emma, who described the emotional and financial strain his coma and death has had on them in heart-wrenching statements.

Whittet had served 33 months for grievous bodily harm and common assault but was charged with manslaughter after Mr Robert's death.

He will serve another two years and eight months in jail, a sentence which Mr Robert's niece, Lucy Roberts, said she felt was not long enough but "better than nothing".

Prosecutor Mary Prior QC said Emma had been in the ambulance with Peter, who briefly gained consciousness and said: "It's ok, my daughter is here."

She said that had stuck with Emma ever since.

Mrs Prior also said that Brenda, who was Peter's childhood sweetheart and wife of 27 years, did not realise the severity of his condition until 2017 and had been faced with deciding if she would ever be able to care for him at home.

Brenda said: "My heart feels like it’s shattered into tiny pieces."

She visited Peter everyday in hospital with Emma.

She said she now faced their retirement plans alone but that she had also been forced to go back to work because of the financial hardship the family faced because Peter had been the main breadwinner.

Mrs Prior said the financial hardship added to the emotional trauma of Peter's condition and the family had feared they would lose their home.

Peter's daughter Emma bravely read her victim impact statement to the court and described how she had applied to meet with Whittet through restorative justice twice but Whittet had declined both times.

Emma said: "I truly cannot explain how torturous each day was.

"It was made worse because there was no restorative justice.

"There was nothing from him or his family saying sorry."

Emma said she had hoped for a chance to see Whittet and tell him that they were similar ages, and ask how would he feel if someone took his dad from him.

Whittet was emotional during the victim statements and had tissues passed to him in the dock.

Whittet's defence counsel, Greg Bull QC, said the defendant had not been in the correct frame of mind to make a meaningful apology through restorative justice and he had made the decision in consultation with probation services.

Prosecutor Mary Prior QC said that Whittet's one offer of apology, during his trial, had been difficult for the family.

She said: "He offered to apologise but the timing was difficult for the family to deal with."

Mrs Prior said the offer came after the defendant had pleaded guilty so it seemed as if he was apologising with the desire to minimise his sentence.

She added: "The family simply could not deal with speaking to the defendant in the middle of the trial."

Emma said: "I could not accept an apology now.

"He has had so much time. Sorry is not enough for taking someone else's life."

Mr Bull, mitigating for Whittet, said he understood the trauma the family had been through after experiencing a family bereavement himself.

Peter's niece, Lucy Roberts, said it had been hard to see how much Brenda and Emma had been affected by the loss of Peter.

Lucy said: "Their lives have changed so much. He was hard working, put everyone above himself.

"I have children and they still ask when is he coming.

"He used to wind them up, silly things like stealing their crisps and they remember that."

Brenda and her daughter Emma visited Peter in hospital everyday, where he was in a vegetative condition with little to no awareness of himself or his environment.

Lucy said it was hard because Peter had been such an outgoing person, and would never have wanted to be like that himself.

She said she wished photos of her uncle had been shown in court so the defendant knew the extent of Peter's injuries.

The court was full for Whittet's sentencing today, with his family almost filling up the public gallery and Mr Roberts' family sat along the separate press benches.

There were tense scenes outside the courtroom after the sentencing.

Whittet will serve half of his sentence in prison and the remaining half on licence.