A “GENTLE giant” was killed by two drunken thugs in a takeaway – after he tried to defend his boss when a row broke out over wet paint.
Former soldier John Auld stepped in when Steven Archibald, 37, and Michael Sutherland, 31, became angry after getting marks on their jackets in the freshly-painted Kopas takeaway in Tranent High Street, East Lothian.
Despite signs warning customers about the paint, Sutherland – who had spent the day drinking with Archibald – vaulted the counter and punched and kicked the takeaway’s boss, Brahim Hamouda, 52, before he managed to escape from the shop.
Tragic delivery driver John, who suffered from a heart condition, tried to help his boss but Archibald and Sutherland pinned him against walls before kicking his head and body and hitting his head off a pane of glass.
The 59-year-old former Royal Scot, from Ormiston, managed to get outside but slumped over the bonnet of his car before falling to the ground and later passed away despite ambulance and hospital staff battling to save him.
Incredibly, unemployed Archibald was STILL complaining about the paint on his jacket when the police arrived to arrest him following the incident last March.
Archibald and Sutherland admitted culpable homicide at the High Court yesterday.
John’s friend, John McGovern, 47, from Ormiston, paid tribute to his brave pal – while slamming the men responsible for the sickening attack.
He said: “He was a real gentle giant who would do anything for you. If you were in a bind then he’d be only too happy to help you out. He wouldn’t have thought twice about going to the rescue of his boss.
“I’m glad that they have pled guilty but how long will they actually serve? Life should mean life, not just ten years or so.
“They’ve robbed me of my best mate, Isabella of her partner and her kids of their dad, all for what? Some paint on a guy’s jacket. It’s so stupid.”
Archibald, of Musselburgh, and Sutherland, of Wallyford, East Lothian, were originally charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of culpable homicide.
Advocate depute Richard Goddard told the High Court in Edinburgh: “Signs were clearly visible warning customers of wet paint within.
“Despite the signs warning of wet paint and a verbal warning from Mr Hamouda, both accused leant on surfaces wet with paint. This caused staining to their jackets.
“Both accused blamed Mr Hamouda for this and remonstrated with him. The female employee took the jacket off Archibald and attempted to wipe it down.”
The court heard how upon arriving at the scene shortly after the attack, police found Archibald in the High Street still complaining about his stained clothing.
Mr Goddard told the court: “He was found to be heavily intoxicated and was complaining about the damage caused to his jacket.
Speaking of Mr Auld’s injuries he added: “It appears from accounts of witnesses that each accused struck him at least ten times.”
Mr McGovern labelled their crime “an absolute joke” and that while he is glad they admitted their guilt, stated that any sentence they serve will be “never enough” compared to the loss of his friend, a veteran of three tours of Northern Ireland, who supplemented his income by working as a delivery driver.
He is believed to have told his friends shortly before his death that he was considering quitting the job because he felt it was becoming too dangerous.
Mr Auld had been with his partner, Isabella Cuthbertson, for more than 20 years, and was a stepfather to her three daughters, and doted on his grandchildren.
The prosecutor said Ms Cuthbertson had described him “as a hard working and popular family man who would have done anything for her or her children and as a ‘kind and gentle soul’.”
Mr Goddard added: “She describes herself as lost without him.”
The pair will be sentenced next month. Sutherland also pleaded guilty to assaulting the restaurant owner Brahim Hamouda.
Mr McGovern has revealed that his friend intended to give up the part-time driving job when his military pension came through just two months later in May because of his growing concerns over drunken behaviour along the High Street.
He went on to reveal how the friends had shared “a blether” over a cup of tea just half an hour before his death.
He said: “I’d known him all of my life and I’m still devastated by his death. He only lived across the street from me and he was always stopping in for a cup of tea and a chat.
“I keep thinking he’ll walk back in the door for a wee blether.
“One of Isabella’s daughters drives his old car and whenever I see her passing, for a split-second I think ‘There’s John now, he’ll be around in a minute’.
“Of course then it all comes back. It’s so sad. I had only spoke with him before he left that night. He had a cup of tea and then headed off.
“I couldn’t believe it when a neighbour rang a half hour later to say he had been hurt.”
As a young man, Mr Auld worked as a butcher in Ormiston – earning himself the nickname “Chopper” – before joining the army. He saw service in Northern Ireland before leaving to become a civilian driver with the Ministry of Defence, based at Redford Barracks.
HIGH STREET THAT’S LIKE HIGH NOON
JOHN Auld’s death is one of a long line of drunken, antisocial incidents to have blighted Tranent High Street in recent years, leading to calls for more action to tackle drink-related disorder.
Business owners have long complained that each weekend the town’s main streets are plagued with violence, often linked to drugs
Just two months after Mr Auld’s death, a man had the top of an ear torn off during a fight in the Whispers Lounge Bar on High Street.
Stewart Henderson, who owns The Bakery, told the Evening News: “When I come into work on a Monday morning, you can see the damage from the weekend – broken windows, bottles on the street.”
Some residents, too, said they were reluctant to walk the main street on weekend nights.
Mary Phillips, 68, said: “I certainly wouldn’t come down here on my own on a Friday or Saturday night, whereas I might have done a few years back.”
Police have increased weekend patrols in order to maintain a higher visibility on the street.
AGONY FOR HAVE-A-GO HEROES
NUMEROUS have-a-go heroes have suffered serious injuries in recent years as a result of intervening at times when others may have chosen to turn away.
In August last year, Malcolm Brown, 66, had his cheekbone smashed during a bus stop row over a can of Irn-Bru.
Mr Brown was waiting with his wife and two friends on the West Approach Road when he noticed a youth demanding a drink from another. When he tried to defuse the situation, he was set upon and racially abused by a tracksuit-wearing attacker.
Two months earlier, a good Samaritan was beaten and robbed after she tried to break up a drunken fight in the Meadows.
Sunbathers looked on as the 21-year-old was punched in the face and repeatedly kicked on the ground by a young female thug, before having her mobile phone stolen.
Two men who attempted to come to her aid were also threatened with a glass bottle by a male member of the gang.
In October 2011, Ujjwal Dhakal suffered a serious eye injury after he was punched when he intervened to stop a woman from being assaulted on South St David Street.