A FIREMAN told a murder trial jury yesterday that he acted in self defence during a fight with a man who had “a reputation for violence”.

Father-of-four Kevin Smith died from a head injury sustained at a wedding party at Sapey Golf Club, Upper Sapey, near Clifton upon Teme.

Jason Halling claimed Mr Smith became aggressive and suddenly grabbed him round the throat.

He was scared and believed he was about to be headbutted, Worcester Crown Court heard.

Halling insisted that Mr Smith, a 47-year-old Bromyard businessman, had attacked his friend Brian Prosser in a town pub six months before the club incident.

Mr Prosser gave evidence that he was headbutted by Mr Smith in a pub toilet – but did not remember discussing the alleged attack with Halling. Married Halling, aged 29, of Firs Orchard, Bromyard, denies murder on January 3 last year.

A scuffle broke out on the golf club’s balcony on New Year’s Day last year after the defendant claimed Mr Smith swore at him and said he didn’t like him.

Mr Smith died in hospital three days later, probably from a broken jaw that led to bleeding in his brain.

Halling insisted he was pushed up against a patio door and he fought back “to get him off me”.

“I was well aware of his reputation for violence,” he said. “I saw Brian Prosser’s injury. He described Kevin as a hard individual and someone not to mess with.”

Prosecutor Tim Raggatt QC alleged that Halling intended to cause Mr Smith serious harm during a barrage of punches that broke his nose, jaw and hand.

Mr Prosser told the jury he was attacked over an incident connected to Mr Smith’s ex-wife.

He said Halling called at his house after leaving the golf club. “He said Kevin went for him so he hit him a few times,” he added.

Bar worker Emily Jones, a cousin of the defendant, said she overheard a conversation on the balcony between Mr Smith and his partner Laura Davies.

She said Mr Smith branded Halling “arrogant” and said: “He thinks he can have everyone. I’ll show him.”

In her final speech to the jury, defence counsel Rachel Brand QC alleged it was a sudden attack by Mr Smith and Halling reacted very quickly.

“In the heat of the moment the defendant delivered blows to get him off,” she said. “They were harder than he wished they had been.

"It is utterly tragic that a man died at a happy family gathering.”

The judge is due to send the jury out today to consider its verdict.