A banking executive ‘fell like a plank of wood’ after a stranger fatally punched him in a row over a stolen phone, a court heard.
Paul Mason, 52, was chief executive officer at Qatar National Bank and had spent the evening at the Ivy Club in London‘s West End when he was confronted by Steven Allan, who knocked him to the ground.
Allan, 34, had been drinking in a number of bars when he bumped into Mr Mason, accused the banking boss of stealing a mobile phone and launched a vicious attack, the Old Bailey heard today.
As Mr Mason tried to get up from the floor, Allan connected with an uppercut – with witnesses describing the ‘sickening crunch’ as Mr Mason’s skull collided with the pavement. Allan was traced by CCTV and admitted killing Mr Mason but denies murder.
Doctors battled to save Mr Mason and carried out a procedure to replace part of his skull with a sheet of titanium, but he died six months later on 4 June 2021.
Banking boss Paul Mason, 52, had been at the Ivy Club in London’s West End when he was confronted by Steven Allan who hit him with a deadly punch
The Ivy, a well-known haunt for celebrities and executives in the West End
Mr Mason had put a female friend in a black cab after they had spent the night at the Ivy Club and was making his way home when he was confronted by Allan on December 15, 2020.
Allan, who had been drinking with two friends, marched across the road to him and tried to grab his phone.
Mr Mason tried to continue his journey but Allan followed him and punched him with his right fist, knocking him to the ground.
Witness Gary McGuinness told the court how he watched the ‘dramatic-looking scuffle’ unfold in the middle of the street.
‘It looked like some sort of lads banter in some weird way because it was so dramatic I couldn’t equate why it would be happening otherwise,’ he told the Old Bailey.
He described Mr Mason falling the floor during the fight, before the ‘decisive hit’ that was followed by an ‘audible noise of his head hitting the ground’.
After knocking Mr Mason to the ground following his third punch, Allan screamed: ‘Where’s your fight now?’ as his victim lay senseless, the Old Bailey heard.
‘He [Mr Mason] didn’t do anything to break his own fall, he was completely rigid and fell down like a plank of wood’, Mr McGuiness added.
‘His head hitting the ground appeared to make a squelching noise, a horrible noise really.
Doctors battled to save Mr Mason (above) and carried out a procedure to replace part of his skull with a sheet of titanium, but he died six months later on 4 June 2021
‘[Allan] took the phone out of his hands and said “this is my friend’s phone, the guy had my friend’s phone.”
‘When I moved over there he was struggling to breathe, there was a kind of gurgling sound which was very disturbing. Three other gentlemen said we should move him onto his side.’
He said Allan then disappeared from the scene while members of the public tried to help Mr Mason.
Jane Bickerstaff, KC, prosecuting, told the court: ‘He appears then to lean down towards Mr Mason, who is at the same time trying to shrug him off and move away from the defendant.
‘The defendant then punched Mr Mason a second time while he was trying to get back to his feet.
‘He then punches him a third time with an upper cut that causes Mr Mason to fly back and land on his back with his head hitting the pavement.
‘The defendant then appears to take Mr Mason’s phone from him and makes off.
‘It appears as if, having appreciated that Mr Mason was lying unconscious on his back on the pavement, the defendant approaches him again and may in fact put back whatever he took.
‘Certainly, there is no evidence of any property missing from Mr Mason.’
Registered nurse Laura Gil Selva saw Allan aggressively shouting at the victim and described him throwing a forceful punch and causing the victim’s face to bleed.
‘She saw that as Mr Mason went to the floor for the final time, his head hit the floor making a loud sound,’ said Ms Bickerstaff.
‘She recalls that as she sought to help the victim, the defendant said to her, something like, “Don’t touch him or help him. You don’t know what he did. He’s kidnapped my nephew.”‘
Mr Mason had been the chief executive officer at Qatar National Bank (pictured) at the time of his death
Another witness, Vaki Dhaval, who was on his way home after having a meal with friends, saw Mr Mason with his hand in front of him in a defensive manner telling Allan to ‘stay away’.
‘He continued to watch, and it appeared to him that it was all over as both men seemed to be walking away in different directions, but then, for no apparent reason the defendant punched Mr Mason, knocking him off his feet,’ Ms Bickerstaff said.
‘He saw the assault and heard Mr Allan say, after he had punched the victim to the ground, ‘Where is your fight now? Show me your fight now!’
‘He saw that the defendant continued shouting as if he was trying to see if there was any possibility to continue the attack.’
Allan, of Hook, Hampshire, admits manslaughter but denies murder.
The trial continues.