I killed a stranger with one punch for no reason – now Im pals with his mum

In August 2011, Jacob Dunne killed a man he had never met before with a single punch.

Since then he has been to prison, experienced homelessness and has struggled to cope with his immeasurable guilt.

But he has also forged an unlikely friendship with his victim’s mother.

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His victim was James Hodgkinson, a 28-year-old trainee paramedic who died after the head strike in Nottingham.

But James’ mother, Joan, has since forgiven her son’s killer.

Dunne wrote about the bond in his new book, ‘Right from Wrong: My Story of Guilt and Redemption’.

And speaking to LADbible, an emotional Dunne said: “You know, I was told by his parents that James was the type of person where he’d want me to make something of my life and to amount to something positive.

“That helped me to believe in myself a little more because I knew I wouldn't be able to achieve anything if I was stuck in the guilt and shame of what I’d done.”

James tragically lost his life after crossing paths with Dunne in the summer of 2011.

Dunne was out celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday before he got separated from his pals.

But he then responded to phone calls that changed the course of his life.

He remembered: “I got some calls from my friends who I got separated with who were in another bar causing trouble, which I didn’t know.

“And they would ring me up and say, ‘Oh Jacob, it’s kicking off. You need to come and back us up’.”

Being young and immature, Dunne, then 19, ran in the direction of the conflict determined to prove himself in front of his mates.

And asked about the senseless attack, he said: “I sadly took it upon myself to get involved and I threw a punch at the guy that my mate was arguing with and he fell on the floor.”

That man was James – who unbeknown to Dunne at the time would never recover from the blow.

Dunne was even visited by his buddies the following day who boasted about the knockout punch.

And days later, he went on holiday with his mum before police arrested him a month after the incident.

Describing how he felt after learning of the death and being arrested on suspicion of murder, he said: “A mixture of every unpleasant emotion combined.

“Shock, disbelief, self-pity. And at the time I guess I also felt unfortunate. Why has this happened to me? Out of everybody that goes around throwing punches, why did mine have to have the impact that it did?

“Yeah, everything just kind of flashed through my eyes really and I didn’t… in the end I just became numb and just blanked it all out.”

His mum has since died but he added: “My mum was… the best way to describe it is hysterical. She just kept crying about the pain that the other person’s mum would be feeling.

“I found that really difficult to even try and think about because up until then I didn’t really know how to talk about emotions. I didn’t know how to talk about feelings.

“I didn’t even know how to ask for help.”

Dunne pleaded guilty to manslaughter and he served 14 months of his 30-month sentence behind bars.

But his redemption began after his victim’s parents requested to talk with him.

He told LADbible: “Listening to what they were going to tell me was going to be difficult.

“Obviously they weren’t going to sugar-coat it; they wanted me to know exactly what the impact was and to hold me to account.

“I think that was the start of me being able to process my guilt which I'm always gonna be processing. That’s my… some people would say that’s my sentence really.”

James’ parents asked what he would do with his life and he promised to finish his GSCEs aged 21.

Joan has since forgiven James, who said: “[I was] very grateful but I didn’t want to expect forgiveness.

“I understand that forgiveness isn’t something that is black and white. Forgiveness means different things to different people.”

Becoming friends with Joan has also helped Dunne to make something good of his life.

And speaking of his future plans, he said: “Involved in campaigns to raise awareness that one punch can kill.

“That us men, in particular, need to talk more about our problems instead of letting them all get bottled up and end up coming out wrong and causing more harm.”

And speaking about how she connected with her son's killer, Joan told the Daily Mail: “When I first saw Jacob in a police mugshot he looked like a thug. But then, two-and-a-half years later, I met him and he just seemed a very vulnerable young man who really needed my support.

“I still love and miss James just as much. I just couldn’t carry the resentment with me any longer. And when I forgave Jacob it felt like a release.”

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She continued: “Jacob’s crime is not a big focus any more. What matters is that he has turned his life around and we’re working together to prevent conflict. I’m proud of what he has achieved.

“I wanted him to do something constructive with his life, to stop him going back to his old ways, but for a while I thought that by helping him I was betraying James.”

Dunne's new book, ‘Right from Wrong: My Story of Guilt and Redemption' can be purchased on Amazon.


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