Ex-Sunderland footballer who was ‘like an animal’ when he killed his ‘gentle’ 77-year-old father in Christmas Eve attack is jailed for nearly 12 years

  • Paul Conlon, 43, punched, throttled and hit Harry Conlon during the attack
  • Elderly father told police he had ‘never been hit so hard’ and died two weeks later
  • Conlon is an alcoholic with previous convictions for violence against women  

An ex-Sunderland footballer who was ‘like an animal’ when he killed his 77-year-old father in a Christmas Eve attack has been jailed for nearly 12 years.   

Ex-Sunderland AFC and Hartlepool United player Paul Conlon, 43, punched, throttled and hit Harry Conlon with a Converse shoe during the deadly violence on Deansfield Close, Sunderland, on December 24 last year.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the ‘gentle, kind and forgiving’ elderly former boxer, who died roughly two weeks after the attack, told police immediately afterwards he had ‘never been hit so hard’.

As Conlon, who is an alcoholic with a series of convictions for violence against women, was taken to the police station made rape threats against the officers’ wives and asked ‘if they knew who he was’ in relation to his sports career.

Ex-Sunderland AFC and Hartlepool United player Paul Conlon (pictured), 43, punched, throttled and hit Harry Conlon with a Converse shoe during the deadly violence on Deansfield Close, Sunderland, on December 24 last year

The tragedy happened at the home of Mr Conlon, who was just 5ft 5ins and weighed eight stone, where he lived with his wife Linda – who witnessed the killing.

The court heard the couple’s daughter Lyndsey Green had arrived at the house for a Christmas visit with her two children while her husband, who works as a pilot, was away.

She had understood her brother, who she did not want to be around, would not be at the house and would be spending the festive season with his girlfriend.

But Conlon, who was drinking up to three bottles of wine per day, had been issued a restraining order to keep away from his girlfriend and was not allowed in when he arrived there that morning, so was at his parents’ home.

Pictured: Conlon as he was being arrested by police after the violent attack  

Because of his presence, Mrs Green, who knew how her brother could behave, decided to leave and their ‘exasperated’ father Mr Conlon said ‘I’ve had enough of this’.

The court heard Conlon then ‘came stumbling downstairs, obviously intoxicated’ and attacked the pensioner.

Prosecutor John Elvidge QC told the court: ‘Harry Conlon was later to tell the police he had been given ”a good hiding” and he had ”never been hit so hard”.’

The court heard Mrs Green had heard a ‘thud’ and saw her mother and father on the floor as she was putting her children in her car and had contacted the police as she believed ‘he was going to kill her parents’.

The tragedy happened at the home of Mr Conlon, who was just 5ft 5ins and weighed eight stone, where he lived with his wife Linda – who witnessed the killing. Pictured: Conlon being arrested

She said her brother had ‘completely lost control’ and he was ‘like an animal’.

The court heard Mr Conlon, who had bruising, cuts and a torn ear lobe, suffered a subdural haemorrhage (bleeding on the surface of the brain) and quickly became unwell after the attack.

Mr Conlon told police who arrived at the house he had been punched ‘several times to the head’.

He was filmed on an officer’s body worn camera saying ‘my son’s drunk, he bashed me’.

Mr Conlon was also caught on camera saying that his son was an alcoholic who had fallen out with his girlfriend and ‘kicked off’, which was a ‘regular thing’.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance and had emergency neurological surgery but died from pneumonia on January 18.

Conlon struggled with the police and had to be restrained, while making ‘threats to rape their wives’. 

Conlon signed for Sunderland in 1996 in controversial circumstances after bursting into Hartlepool United’s senior side with four goals in 11 matches

Mrs Justice Lambert sentenced Conlon, who admitted manslaughter, to 11 years and ten months behind bars and said he poses a ‘high risk of harm to the public’.

The judge told him: ‘On Christmas Eve 2020 you attacked your father causing him to suffer a very serious head injury from which he died on January 18.

‘Your violent assault upon your father Harry Conlon was triggered by a comment which he made, expressing his frustration with your behaviour as you stumbled downstairs in an abusive drunken state.’

The judge added: ‘This was a horrific assault. It must have been shocking and terrifying for those who witnessed it, your mother and sister.’

The judge said Conlon had a ‘promising’ start to life as a professional footballer and ran businesses when he left the sport but turned to drink around 17 years ago.

Justice Lambert told him: ‘You will have to live with the fact you killed your father and caused misery to your family for the rest of your life.’

The court heard Conlon, of no fixed address, was convinced his family would not provide a statement to police about his behaviour and said his detention at the police station was ‘pointless’.

Conlon signed for Sunderland in 1996 in controversial circumstances after bursting into Hartlepool United’s senior side with four goals in 11 matches.  

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