Natalie Cadman, 37, a nurse who lives in Burgess Hill, had been at her family’s shop UpMarket 22 in Church Road on the evening of May 13, 2016.
The shop was due to open the following day and she and her family were making final arrangements.
But shortly after 11pm, an altercation broke out in the shop when a group ‘behaving noisily’ walked in uninvited.
The altercation led Mrs Cadman to be struck in the mouth. Her father Frank Milligan, 63, who tried to break up the altercation, collapsed and died two days later in hospital after suffering a stroke.
John Venn, 20, of The Highlands, Cuckfield, Hayden Garrett, 21, of Allen Road, Haywards Heath and Joshua Hewes, 21, of Silver Birches, Haywards Heath, were sentenced to 12 months in prison at Lewes Crown Court yesterday, after pleading guilty to affray when they appeared in court in January.
Sentencing the trio Judge Guy Anthony said: “No one in Frank Milligan’s family will ever believe that the fatal stroke that he suffered shortly after the affray was unconnected with the events that the three of you engaged in.
“Natalie, who is generally a robust person, had never been so scared in her life and was struck in the mouth.
“This sort of drunken behaviour can only be dealt with by a custodial sentence. None of you are of good character.
“Putting the death of Frank Milligan aside, your behaviour was appalling, unprovoked, unnecessary, irresponsible, frightening and criminal.”
The court heard how the trio had been on a night out in Burgess Hill town centre. They were seen to be ‘behaving noisily’ by Tony Begley, landlord of the Block and Gasket pub, shortly before approaching the shop. He had noticed one of them kicking shop windows, which later confirmed to be Venn, the court heard.
Mrs Cadman was working when Hewes was the first to enter the shop. She asked him to leave but then Venn walked in and picked up a box of crisps, the court heard. Three men were then standing in the shop doorway and Hewes asked for some Fosters beers. Mrs Cadman shouted at them to get out and pushed Hewes out of the shop, the court heard.
Darren Wynne, 38, of Valebridge, Burgess Hill, who had also been working in the shop, heard Mrs Cadman and ran to help her, followed by her father Mr Milligan.
But the altercation broke out onto the street and this is when Mrs Cadman asked her mother, Susan, who was also inside the shop, to call the police, the court heard.
A statement from Mrs Cadman was read out in court: “I feel quite confident managing violence and aggression because of my job, but I felt that I had no control in this whatsoever and felt like I had nowhere to go and that is when I felt scared, and that is not like me, I have never felt so scared in my life.”
Prosecuting, Alan Gardner, told the court Mr Wynne saw Venn ‘face-to-face’ with Mr Milligan: “Venn had his forehead against Mr Milligan’s and was seen to be goading and threatening action.
“Hewes and Garrett joined Venn, which turned into an ugly confrontation on the street, and at a place they should not have been in, in the first place.
“Homophobic abuse was also directed at Mr Wynne, but it is not entirely clear who was responsible for that particular abuse.”
The court heard how Garrett had approached Mr Wynne to hit him, and that Mr Wynne grabbed him around the head, to stop this from happening.
Mrs Cadman saw Mr Wynne struggling and tried to get Garrett off him. Her father Mr Milligan also tried to help. This was when Mrs Cadman was struck in the mouth and suffered a chipped tooth.
The court heard how the police were called a second time, which led to the arrests of Hewes and Garrett. Venn was arrested a few days later.
The trio were originally charged with manslaughter but when a joint medical report was ordered by the trial, the Crown Prosecution Service requested this charge was discontinued, which was accepted by the court.
Defending Venn, Tony Waller, told the court: “Venn always and continues to have sympathy for the family. There was no suggestion he was throwing punches or of that nature.
“Venn feels ashamed about this. He had been drinking and acknowledges his behaviour, which was wholly unacceptable.
“He has expressed remorse and sympathy of the tragic death of Mr Milligan, but does not accept he was directly responsible for it.”
Defending Hewes, Andrew Stephen, said: “He wishes of course and no doubt everyone in this courtroom that the clocks could be turned back, but of course they cannot.”
Defending Garrett, Gabby Henty, said he had ‘managed to stay out of trouble’ since the incident and added: “He hardly goes out and is no longer drinking, he prefers to stay at home with his family and dog.”
The trio must serve at least half of their 12-month sentence.
Venn will serve his in a young offenders institution.
After the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Carron, said: “We are pleased these three have been sentenced to 12 months for their involvement in this tragic incident in Burgess Hill.
“This has been an extremely difficult case for Mr Milligan’s family and our thoughts and sympathies remain with them for their loss.”