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Coroner rules Witney jeweller Melvin Hillier was unlawfully killed
AN investigation into the death of a 52-year-old man is to be reviewed after a coroner ruled he was unlawfully killed.
Jeweller Melvin Hillier, from Witney, was found dead in a flat after a night of heavy drinking with friends.
An inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court yesterday heard he died from bleeding on the brain caused by a blow to the head.
Last night detectives said they were reviewing the police investigation.
A murder inquiry was originally launched into the death of Mr Hillier but nobody was ever charged.
Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would be considering whether any new evidence would lead to any charges.
Described by friends as the “original rogue” who would bend over backwards to help people, Mr Hillier was found dead in a flat at the Tower Centre in Alvescot Road, Carterton, on March 21.
Oxford-born Mr Hillier, who was described as an alcoholic, unemployed and a former jeweller, died at the home of Dale Curtis.
Giving evidence at the inquest, both Mr Curtis and the third drinker, Jeffrey Savage, denied punching Mr Hillier.
But Mr Savage told the hearing he thought he saw Mr Curtis swing a punch at Mr Hillier on the evening of March 20.
Mr Savage said: “It looked like one was being thrown, but I can’t be too sure. My vision was blurred.”
The inquest heard that the men had been drinking vodka, rum and wine that evening.
It wasn’t until around 7am the next day when the men and Mr Curtis’s daughter, Lisa, woke up and saw blood under Mr Hillier’s nose, that Mr Curtis called an ambulance. Mr Hillier was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Mr Curtis, Ms Curtis and Mr Savage were all subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail.
The investigation was then downgraded to one of manslaughter.
Mr Savage admitted during the inquest that he had lied in his original statement to police about not witnessing any violence.
He said: “I saw Dale throw a punch.”
The inquest heard the men had been arguing about market stall-trader Mr Hillier’s cat.
Ms Curtis told the hearing that at about 10pm on March 20 she awoke from sleeping in another room at her father’s flat and went into the room where the three men were drinking and watching television.
At that time she noticed Mr Hillier had blood under his nose.
Forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt said Mr Hillier suffered significant bruising to his right eye, and additional bruising to his lips and the back of his head.
The bruising was mostly likely caused by at least three punches, he said. The bruising caused internal bleeding to the head, which resulted in his death.
The coroner said there were questions about the “reliability” and “credibility” of the three witnesses present on the night of Mr Hiller’s death.
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Salter said: “I am sure that there was an injury sustained by Mr Hillier.”
After the hearing Detective Superintendent Ian Hunter, Thames Valley Police’s senior investigating officer on the case, told the Oxford Mail: “We are keeping the investigation under review.”
A spokesman for the CPS said: “In the event of an unlawful killing verdict the officer in the case or the coroner will notify the CPS.
“I can confirm that TVP has updated us following the verdict.
“The CPS will now consider if any new evidence or information has the capability to change the previous decision not to bring charges.”