IT was tomfoolery with tragic consequences.

"Death came upon a young man of only 20 years age with terrible and unexpected swiftness, death caused by violence," jurors were to hear of a drama at a racing stables.

The day's work over, the lads filed into the mess room at John Fallon's yard for their evening meal when one, James Sainsbury, began cheeking the cook Albert Holdaway over the lateness of the meal. The cook didn't appreciate the jibe and dragged him outside.

Sainsbury struggled and struck the cook but naturally weighing a mere eight stone and just 5ft 4in tall was soon overpowered. Sainsbury then called out "Come on Liverpool," the nickname of fellow apprentice John Green who pleaded with the cook not to hit him.

"You will come to the conclusion," prosecutor R B Murphy alleged at the Salisbury sitting of Wiltshire Assizes "that whatever he did, Green did not attempt any violence on the cook."

It was at this moment, he said, that Joseph Fallon, head lad to his brother, also came outside, pushing Green to one side and demanding what business he had of interfering.

Green apparently made no reply but was then struck twice by Fallon.

"Green was retreating backwards and apparently put up his hands, not to attack Fallon - and that is not suggested by any of the witnesses - but to defend himself."

Perhaps out of fear and potential repercussions, the three witnesses, who saw the blows being inflicted, calmly walked back into the mess room to continue their meal, leaving Green motionless on the grass.

Holdaway, who had resumed working in the kitchen to make the pudding, then realised he was not moving.

"Hello," he asked. "Who hit Liverpool?"

Fallon replied: "I gave him one smack."

Holdaway went outside and discovered him unconscious.

Fallon summoned a doctor to the yard at Winterbourne Stoke but shortly afterwards Green died.

Fallon, 28, was arrested the same day, August 17, 1911, and charged with manslaughter, appearing before Mr Justice Coleridge almost two months later.

In his opening address, Murphy warned the jurors: "You must be satisfied on two matters. Firstly, was the prisoner justified in any way in using any personal violence towards the youth under the circumstances, and secondly as to what was in fact the true character and the nature of the blows given by the prisoner."

However the Crown's case was undermined by confirmation that Green had been injured the previous day. He had been exercising a horse in the paddock when he suffered a heavy fall and had not been to bed.

"Did he, as far as you know, complain to anyone about the affects of the fall?" Murphy asked Holdaway.

He replied '"No."

Stable lad Robert Dalton said Green had his hands up in a fighting position if he was trying to ward off blows when Fallon struck him twice on the head.

The judge asked: "I suppose these boys are cheeky sometimes."

Dalton - "Yes."

Judge - "I suppose they are given a knock if they are."

Dalton - "Yes."

Judge - "It is not unusual to get a cuff, either from one of themselves or from the head groom."

Dalton - "I don't know."

Judge - "Have you ever had a cuff?"

Dalton - "Yes," he replied to laughter. "Several times."

The case then developed into a conflict over the medical evidence, with doctor C R F Hall from Shrewton revealing that when he carried out the post mortem, he found a thinly distributed effusion of blood spread over the brain and concluded Green had died from concussion of the brain.

But under cross-examination from J A Foote, defending, he accepted he could not say when Green had suffered from the fatal injury.

It was a point the judge pursued.

"A boy gets a cuff on the cheek, wouldn't you think it highly improbable that it would cause concussion of the brain?"

Hall - "Yes."

Judge - "Isn't it a fact that concussion of the brain does not develop almost immediately?"

Hall - "I think it usually develops at once."

Judge - "I see that you said before the magistrates 'Is is possible but not probable it might have been of 24 hours standing."

Hall - "I think it is possible."

Judge - You mean the cause of death might have happened more than 24 hours earlier."

Hall - "I think it is possible."

The doctor's evidence completed, the defence then called Fallon who had been his brother's head lad for four or five years. Recalling the disturbance outside the mess room, he gave a different interpretation of the clash between Sainsbury and the cook, saying that Sainsbury had knocked the cook down and got on top of him.

Green, he claimed, was standing over the pair with his fists clenched.

"I asked him what he was interfering with other people's business for and he replied that he was not going to see Sainsbury struck. I told him to get back to his dinner but he refused to do so.

"I went to strike Green on the cheek with my open hand but he warded it off. I repeated the blow with my right hand and then with my left hand. Green started crying and after turning towards Sainsbury and telling him to go and finish his meal, I went to the kitchen. There I saw Green lying on the grass and subsequently I called for the doctor."

He was asked if either blow had knocked Green down, to which he answered "No, I never saw him fall on the grass."

Foote- "When you say you saw him lying on the grass, was that at the place you smacked him or somewhere else?"

Fallon - "Some distance away on the grass."

The prosecutor then began cross-examination.

Murphy - "What did you suppose brought him on the grass?"

Fallon - "I thought he might have lain there. I cannot say whether he lay down or fell down."

Murphy - "Lay down for what purpose? To rest himself?"

Fallon - "Very likely."

Murphy - "Do you really suggest that when you saw him lying down, you thought he had laid down to rest himself?

Fallon - "He might have laid down out of temper."

Murphy - "Rather than to go and have his dinner."

Fallon - "Yes."

Murphy - "Do stable boys frequently lay on the grass when dinner is going on out of temper?

Fallon - "No."

Murphy - "Did he attempt to attack you?"

Fallon - "Not me."

Murphy - "In holding up his hands he was attempting to ward off your blows?"

Fall on - "Yes."

In his closing speech, Foote said Green had died "in an unusual way, from an unusual cause, in somewhat unusual manner and with unusual symptoms. It was perfectly true he had been struck, his ears had been boxed perhaps violently.

"That is all that happened to him," he submitted. "If green had died from a blow with an open hand on the cheek it was a very unusual thing.

"Has my learned friend proved his case? There is no evidence of any blow being struck except the cuff on the left cheek. It is not sufficient to say the blow on the cheek contributed to his death. You have got to say the blow on the cheek killed him."

The judge directed the jury that it was not for them to say whether there was sufficient reason for thinking Fallon ought to strike or punish Green.

"You are not here to sit him in judgement on him for hot temper. The only thing you have to decide is whether the act of Fallon striking Green caused his death."

Jurors retired for some 40 minutes before the foreman announced they had found the prisoner "Not guilty on the evidence we have heard today."

(BLOB) John Fallon bought the Winterbourne Stoke yard in 1896 and continued to train there before experiencing financial problems at the outset of the Great War and sold it in about 1920.