The family of a man who died at New Year say a larger police presence in Dundee could have prevented his death in a taxi rank punch-up.
Brian Fox, 62, died in the early hours of January 1 after hitting his head on the road at the taxi rank in Nethergate.
He was punched by 20-year-old Wes Reid, who was acquitted of culpable homicide on the grounds of self-defence at the High Court in Edinburgh last week.
Speaking exclusively to the Tele following the verdict, Mr Fox’s brother David, sister Isobel and sister-in-law Aileen say they were left “gobsmacked” by the outcome.
They believe an inadequate police presence in the city was a contributing factor in their relative’s death – slamming the corporate slogan of “Keeping People Safe” as a falsehood.
David, 58, is a retired policeman, and believes CCTV shown during Reid’s trial proved there were not enough police in the city for the time of year.
He said: “For any New Year, you put on a large police presence – high-visibility patrols, especially somewhere like Dundee city centre.
“The CCTV video shows from the Perth Road and all the way down Nethergate and along the High Street.
“There’s not a police officer or a police car to be seen. We know people were phoning the police at this point (when Brian hit his head) and there’s no one coming.
“The ambulance got there first, 20 minutes after, and then the police arrived five minutes after that.
“If there had been police on the high street this would have been avoided. Why wasn’t there any police? It’s up to somebody who was in charge of policing that night to say – but we want to know.”
Reid had originally been accused of murdering Brian alongside 25-year-old Adam Valentine before prosecutors reduced the charge to culpable homicide prior to his acquittal.
Isobel said: “The procurator fiscal said they were reducing it from a deliberate murder to culpable homicide.
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“To go from that to absolutely nothing is…wow.”
Aileen added: “It’s not right that someone has lost their life trying to help people.”
The outcome of Reid’s trial has not brought them closure – but when asked if they would ever want to speak to him to understand why he lashed out, the family rule it out.
David said: “I don’t particularly want to speak to him, at all. As far as meeting him and asking him why – he will always be the guy who punched Brian out.”
However, the family have been grateful for the outpouring of support they have received from both their friends and others following the trial.
They have adopted a bench outside the Nethergate that will soon be decorated with a plaque reading: “We are so proud that you are our brother.”
Isobel said: “The support has been so nice – he was always such a gentleman and he knew so many people. He was always willing to help people, 100%.
“But because of what has happened with him I feel like I should tell people not to step in if they see something happening – just to put the blinkers on and walk past.
“I know that is wrong but I also know if Brian hadn’t stepped in we would have asked him why he hadn’t – that was the kind of person he was.”
Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Andrew Todd again expressed his condolences to Brian’s family, but insisted the force had the correct procedures in place to deal with busy nights in Dundee.
He said: “Our sympathies remain with the family of Brian Fox and all those affected by his death.
“With regards to local policing in Dundee, we have extensive plans in place to cover all busy times of the year, including weekends and the festive period. This includes key areas close to licensed premises and taxi ranks.”
Seven-day trial ‘very difficult’ says High Court judge
The seven-day trial which led to the man accused of killing Brian Fox being acquitted was described as “very difficult” by the judge presiding over it.
High Court judge Lord Beckett told jurors they had acted “properly and commendably” in considering the evidence before choosing to acquit Wes Reid, 20, of Tayport.
The jury of eight men and seven women heard evidence from police officers, eye-witnesses, ambulance technicians, doctors and the forensic pathologist who carried out Mr Fox’s post-mortem examination.
Reid was acquitted of the single charge of killing Brian Fox.
His co-accused Adam Valentine, 25, is currently in prison awaiting sentencing for punching Mr Fox as he lay dying on the ground and for assaulting Sandra Jean Baird to her severe injury and danger to her life.
He will reappear before Lord Beckett on December 6 at the High Court in Edinburgh.
At the conclusion of the trial last Friday, the judge said: “In a case that carries considerable emotion on all sides, Mr Fox appears to have done nothing wrong whatsoever, but acted in a responsible manner in saying ‘come on and calm down’.
“Tragically it has cost him his life – but the punch which caused him to fall and die was one punch from a young person, and it occurred in circumstances where Mr Fox, a much larger man, has approached the younger man and reached out.”
‘Gentle giant’ was a perfectionist
Brian Fox was described by his family as a “gentle giant” and a perfectionist in his lifelong trade as a welder.
Mr Fox had grown up with his brothers and sister in Linlathen before leaving school and joining the Army.
However, he opted to leave the armed forces and started an apprenticeship in blacksmithing with housebuilder Bett Brothers.
He then undertook work for a number of offshore companies, completing his last job on an oil rig and coming home just one day before Hogmanay last year.
In between offshore jobs, he established his own company, Phoenix Welding, in Peddie Street.
His handiwork can be seen across Tayside – including at the Bridgeview Station cafe on Riverside Drive.
He was in the process of creating additional metalwork for the cafe’s extension when he died.
Mr Fox’s brother David said: “He had a good reputation and worked with lots of companies.
“He started his business to find more work between jobs – he decided to do that rather than sign on for the dole.”
Sister Isobel added: “He was a perfectionist and he loved his job.
“Everything had to be perfect – if he wasn’t happy with what he was working on he would scrap it and start again.
“It is a bit of a comfort seeing his work.”