A MAN accused of murder has told a court he never meant to seriously harm a man who died following a fight in Salisbury city centre.

Adam Stuart Cross, 35, admits punching and kicking Joseph Starzacher in New Canal, Salisbury on July 29, 2007 but denies murder.

Mr Starzacher was taken to hospital and surgeons operated to remove a blood clot from his brain, but he never recovered and was left in a vegetative state until he died of pneumonia on August 3, 2010.

Taking the stand at Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday, Cross said that Mr Starzacher had provoked him while both were in the Chick-O-Land, calling him names and saying “come on then”. He said Mr Starzacher initiated the violence, trying to grab and push him, and when they started to scuffle Mr Starzacher kicked him in the leg.

The court was shown CCTV images of the incident, which happened in the early hours of the morning, which shows Cross intervening to stop an unidentified man attacking Mr Starzacher three times before pinning the latter against a wall. Cross said Mr Starzacher kept goading on the other man, which was why he intervened several times.

He said: “I thought I had just calmed the situation down. There was no need for that.”

Cross, of Brown Street, Salisbury, said he then thought Mr Starzacher and his friend were going to attack him so he hit Mr Starzacher, who fell to the ground. He then attempted to hit his friend but missed.

The prosecution says Cross then kicked Mr Starzacher in the head but Cross said: “I lashed out towards him with my foot and my foot connected with the upper part of his body; I don't know where.

“I wasn't aiming for his head. I just wanted to knock him off balance so he didn't get up. He was getting back up and he looked angry.”

Cross said he didn't realise Mr Starzacher was seriously hurt until his friend put him in the recovery position. When police arrived he told them it was him who had hit Mr Starzacher and held out his hands to be arrested.

Nigel Pascoe, prosecuting, put it to Cross that three witnesses described a kick to the head, and Cross conceded he “may have” kicked him in the head but said he never meant to seriously hurt him.

The court also heard from Home Office pathologist Amanda Jeffrey who said Mr Starzacher had suffered a head injury in an incident in 2004, placing him at a higher than average risk of blood clots, and the defence suggested this could have been a factor in his death. The trial continues.