A MAN with a lengthy history of violence is behind bars for killing a homeless alcoholic with a single punch.

Wayne Spanswick was jailed for five years and three months after he admitted the manslaughter of Mark Hurren.

Spanswick denied the charge and was mid-way through a trial at Teesside Crown Court when he changed his plea.

The 41-year-old's lawyers tried to have the case thrown out when prosecutor Nicholas Lumley, QC, closed his case.

But when their bid was unsuccessful, Spanswick, of St Aidan's Drive, Middlesbrough, entered his guilty plea.

Mr Hurren, 40, died two days after being assaulted in Middlesbrough town centre on August 25 last year.

Mr Lumley told the jury that he "dropped like a stone" after being punched for no reason by Spanswick.

The victim became unconscious after cracking his head on the pavement, and was dazed and mumbling when he came round.

He went to a friend’s home, but fell down the stairs then collapsed in a bedroom before he was taken to hospital.

The court heard how Mr Hurren suffered a fractured skull with brain bleeding, bruising and swelling.

Initially, Spanswick argued that it could never be determined whether the punch or the tumble had caused the injuries.

Robert Woodcock, QC, defending, argued there was insufficient evidence and "a mist of confusion" about the cause.

During the half-time legal arguments, Mr Lumley said there was “devastating, powerful evidence” for the jury.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, ruled that jurors could safely find the assault was a substantial cause of the death.

After the plea-change, he told Spanswick: “This was an utterly unprovoked attack. It was a heavy blow.”

The court was told that Spanswick did not intend to cause death or serious injury and could not have foreseen it.

Spanswick’s previous convictions - 114 offences including robbery, assault and carrying weapons - were then disclosed.

Mr Woodcock said he had not committed a serious violent offence for almost 20 years, and his chronic alcoholism led to his more recent record of petty dishonesty.