The family of Spalding dad-of-two Warren Free (42) say they have been left “deeply unhappy” after a trial which saw six teenagers cleared of both his murder and manslaughter.
In a statement released at the end of a five-week trial at Lincoln Crown Court, the family described Mr Free as a “vulnerable” man who lost his life in terrible circumstances.
The jury of six men and six women spent over 27 hours, spread over seven days, deliberating before returning their verdicts on Friday.
The youngsters, including three 14-year-olds, were alleged to have attacked Mr Free after he confronted them late at night over noise and vandalism.
Stuart Trimmer QC , prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Free was tripped from behind and then punched, kicked and stamped on before a 15-year-old girl struck him four times over the head with an iron pole the youngsters had snatched from him.
Mr Free returned to his home in Coronation Close, Spalding, and went to bed but friends were later unable to rouse him.
An ambulance was called and he was airlifted to hospital in Nottingham but passed away within 24 hours from a brain injury.
Mr Free was an “intimidated and traumatised” man after suffering a violent attack 11 years before his eventual death, his family have claimed.
In a statement given to the Lincolnshire Free Press after six teenagers were cleared on Friday of the murder and manslaughter of Mr Free last August, his family said they had been left “deeply unhappy” following the trial.
The family also described Mr Free as a “kind and generous man” who valued his privacy, becoming a “recluse” who constantly lived in fear of being attacked again.
“Warren was a kind, generous man who enjoyed his privacy,” the statement read.
“Although he treasured his private life, it is important to us that you understand Warren’s past and why he became so vulnerable. In 2003, Warren suffered a vicious attack where he was struck repeatedly from behind as he tried to run away from the assailant.
“After this attack, Warren developed post-traumatic stress disorder where he seemed to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time throughout his life.
“Warren was so traumatised by his attack in 2003 that he rarely left the house, scared of being attacked again from behind.
“He found crowded places incredibly intimidating and avoided putting himself in that position at all costs.
“The attack also left Warren with deep scars on his head, epilepsy and the partial loss of sight in his right eye meaning the image he now presented was different from the norm which made him stand out from the crowd.
“In July 2014 as the summer holidays started, Warren began to be bullied by some of the children in the area.
“He was shouted at, called names and laughed at whenever he left the house to go to the local shops until, one day, Warren had had enough of the taunting and shouted back to one of the children asking them how old they were.
“They replied ‘15’ which upset Warren because, having a son of 13 himself, it troubled him that children so young could act in this way.
“Warren called us that evening to tell us what had happened and to ask for our advice.
“But after this incident, Warren became more of a recluse and kept himself and his son Adam inside.
“In August 2014, Warren heard banging and shouting in his back garden and on going outside, he witnessed his back fence being kicked down.
“Warren’s biggest fear was being targeted from behind and this panicked him but shortly afterwards, my two grandchildren sadly lost their father.”
Despite their unhappinessfollowing the case, Mr Free’s family had no complaints about how it was handled by the police and prosecution barristers.
“The Crown Prosecution Service presented an honest and factual case based on the law of joint enterprise,” the statement continued.
“The attack on Warren was a violent assault lasting no longer than a few minutes in which he suffered over 50 injuries.
“However, Warren’s death was caused by only one fatal blow that night and it was on this fact that the defence fought the case, arguing that it was impossible to distinguish which individual had inflicted the fatal blow.
“We are deeply unhappy but, as a family, we would like to thank the police from many forces who pulled together to present Warrens case.
“Our appreciation also goes out to all the people of Spalding who have shown their support.
“Warren was a loving member of our family and he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.”