IT was any one of three things that could have killed Michael Stimson while on a night out in Southampton.

The initial punch to the head that caused him to black out, the moment his head smashed against the road as he dropped unconscious to the ground or the kicks and punches that were rained down on him as he lay helpless in the street.

The savage attack by three men on the 29-year-old was captured on CCTV that also went on to film the trio high fiving each other in congratulation for their actions.

The film was played in Southampton Crown Court as the trio, Dean Longhurst, Ben Diaper and Charles Cornhill, were sentenced for their parts in the attack.

There were gasps of horror from the families of the defendants, while Judge Gary Burrell branded the footage “appalling” as they saw how the drink-fuelled assault unfolded.

Prosecutor Rachel Robertson said trouble had been simmering between the group Mr Stimson was with and the three men.

It was claimed that Mr Stimson had hit Diaper, knocking him to the ground before his two friends then came to his aid squaring up to Mr Stimson’s group and asking who had thrown the punch.

When Mr Stimson stepped forward, added Ms Robertson, he was hit in the head by Dean Longhurst.

She said: “Mr Cornhill is then seen to run up to where he (Mr Stimson) is laying and kick him with full force in the face.

“Mr Diaper is then seen to kick Mr Stimson to the face while he is still laying prone from where he fell.

“He then bends forward and punches him to the face while he is still on the ground.”

She went on to describe how the group run off, high fiving each other as go.

Police arrested Diaper nearby while the other two were found hiding in a house near to the train station after being spotted climbing through a window.

By this time fisherman Mr Stimson had regained consciousness in the back of an ambulance.

Shocked passers-by had given first-aid and put him in the recovery position until paramedics arrived, the court was told.

He had no serious injuries but wasn’t able to work for three weeks after the assault in July as he suffered from dizzy spells, headaches and sickness.

Mitigating for Longhurst, Andy Houston said the 20-year-old of Croydon Close, Southampton, had drunk £40 worth of £1 drinks and shots in bars.

He had no previous convictions and had never hit anyone, he added.

For Diaper, 22, of Church Street, Southampton, it was said he had begun committing offences after his mother died when he was 18 and he found himself evicted from the home they shared.

It was also revealed in court that in committing the offence Cornhill, 20, was in breach of a suspended sentence.

All three admitted causing actual bodily harm.

In sentencing Cornhill to 12 months in a Young Offender’s Institution, Diaper to 10 months in prison and Longhurst to a six-month sentence suspended for 18 months, a nine month supervision order and a six month curfew, Judge Burrell QC said it was sheer luck they had not been facing a manslaughter charge.

Following the case PC Jim Dineen said: "Kicking and punching someone in the head when they are unconscious is a despicable and cowardly crime and the three offenders are very lucky that the consequences weren't much, much worse “The most disgusting aspect for me was the way they appeared to celebrate with a high five when Mr Stimson could easily have been lying dead."