A STUDENT accused of manslaughter told police in interviews how he did not land a “hard” punch and was acting in self defence.

Ryan Cooper, 21, from Newport on the Isle of Wight, is charged with the manslaughter of Gary Stacey, a charge he denies.

The third-year law student at a Southampton university claims he acted in self-defence when he punched Mr Stacey from Carisbrooke in the street in the early hours after a night out with friends.

Winchester Crown Court heard how he cried while telling police how he never meant to hurt Mr Stacey,

The court heard how Cooper was a karate expert who achieved a black belt aged 16, and had been practicing the martial art since the age of seven or eight.

Jurors heard Cooper’s police interview read in court, explaining how the incident happened.

He claims that he was with friends when Mr Stacey would not leave the group alone and was shouting at them and acting aggressively in St James Street in Newport.

Earlier that night on February 14 last year, Mr Stacey had an altercation with one of Cooper’s friends, Aaron Shepherd.

Later on in the final police interview Cooper told how Mr Stacey had followed his group of friends later that night and wouldn’t leave them alone.

He claimed that Mr Stacey came at him with a raised fist, so he moved his hand to block Mr Stacey and hit him once.

Describing Mr Stacey’s behaviour as “aggressive”, he said that he threatened to “knock him out.”

Cooper told police: “I just thought he was going to punch me, I do not know why he was walking towards us, and shouting at us.

“He was the one being aggressive and following me and I was saying it was not us, you have got the wrong person.

“You can see he approached us for no reason, he goes up behind us for no reason and Alex was saying calm down it was not us. He was being aggressive, talking aggressively that’s why I go to break it up.”

He said Stacey was puffing his chest out, while clenching his fist, which was when he said Mr Stacey moved his left hand towards him.

Cooper said: “It was not a hard punch, I did not aim to hurt him.

“I did not him hit him hard.

“I did not mean to hit him with that force I did.

“I did not mean for him to die, all I did was hit him before he punched me.

“As soon as his fist moved a little, I am not going to get hit in the face.”

Mr Stacey, who suffered a fractured eye socket, a fractured skull and brain injuries, was treated by paramedics.

He died a day later at Southampton General Hospital.