Off-duty bouncer says he used 'reasonable force' on Michael Lee Dalkin minutes before death

An off-duty and former Goldies bouncer says he used "reasonable action" taking Michael Lee Dalkin to the ground less than 30 minutes before his sudden death, an inquest has heard.

The “funny and energetic” 22-year-old died on December 27, 2019, after passing out outside of Goldie's Bar on Stockton High Street. An inquest at Teesside Corner’s Court has heard of a “scuffle” on the dancefloor before Michael Lee was “dragged along the floor” by two bouncers.

A murder probe was initially launched into the death of the Stockton man due to the “altercation” involving door supervisors, Reece Craig Hugill and Shaun Calvert, inside the popular bar. However, in February 2021 Cleveland Police confirmed that the investigation had been closed after the death was deemed not to be suspicious.

The pair of door supervisors gave evidence at the inquest via video link. They confirmed that he was working at Jokers bar, on Yarm Lane, Stockton, on Boxing Day 2019.

Mr Hugill gave evidence first and told how he finished work between 12am and 1am, on December 27, but stayed at Jokers for a few drinks, which he estimated was ‘three to four Jack Daniels doubles, for around ‘half an hour, 20 minutes’. The bouncer then went into Goldies ‘some time between 1am and 2am’.

He confirmed that he was working with Shaun Calvert at Goldies then the pair went out for drinks together. Mr Hugill estimated that he had drunk between ‘five and 10 pints of Dark Fruit’ in Goldies and he could ‘definitely’ feel the effects of alcohol.

“We don’t have a lot of socialising time when we finish the doors, we drink a bit faster than the average human,” he said. When asked if alcohol impaired his judgement, Mr Hugill added: “When you’re faced with a threat you get fight or flight.”

Police outside Goldies Bar after the incident -Credit:Terry Blackburn Photography
Police outside Goldies Bar after the incident -Credit:Terry Blackburn Photography

Mr Hugill was asked by senior coroner for Teesside and Hartlepool Clare Bailey if he, and Mr Calvert, were ‘acting as customers’ during the incident with Michael Lee. Mr Hugill responded that the pair were “just enjoying ourselves and trying to switch off”. He explained that there were a number of males “arguing” and “getting in each other's faces”.

He stated that he remembered “seeing Michael move away from the group” then “go to the bar and pick up an empty glass”. “It looked like he was going to use it as a weapon,” Mr Hugill added. “ That’s when I stepped in, not as a door supervisor just as a human being.”

Mr Hugill described Michael Lee as “angry” and “walking on a mission”. He alleged that Michael Lee was holding a glass behind his back. Describing the interaction, he added: “I asked him to leave it. He was threatening me, just to glass me instead. I had hold of his hand where he had the glass. I had to pry it from his hand, I gave it to Shaun who put it on the bar.”

Coroner Bailey then asked Mr Hugill about the “altercation” and having his hand on Michael Lee’s right arm. He stated: “When you’re in that situation, you are being threatened, you’re full of alcohol yourself, my automatic instinct was to remove the danger. Remove the glass. Then I put him on the floor so he was no physical danger to me.”

Police and CSI units outside Goldies Bar in Stockton High Street -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live
Police and CSI units outside Goldies Bar in Stockton High Street -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live

Mr Hugill added that after he put Michael Lee onto the floor, he “grabbed the lapels of his jacket and started carrying him out”. Coroner Bailey asked if he believed it was “reasonable action”. He added: “I didn’t try to hurt him. He wasn’t punched, he wasn't kicked. I removed the danger and carried him out. When you watch CCTV without context it creates a narrative, and that's the narrative that we assaulted him and we haven’t been able to say otherwise. Its been a long four years for us. We’ve heard a lot.”

He continued: “I’m a pretty responsible doorman, I’ve worked without incidents. I’m still regarded as a respected doorman I’d say.” Victoria Bryson, Michael Lee's mum, asked Mr Hugill if Michael Lee had an empty glass as CCTV transcriptions stated that “he’d just bought a pint”.

She added that Michael Lee had put his pint on the bar then picked it back up between 3.02am and 3.08am. Mr Hugill responded: “100% it was a glass. I couldn’t calm him down, he was fuming.”

The coroner also queried if Michael Lee had verbally threatened others before the altercation with Mr Hugill. He clarified that he didn’t threaten anybody but it was ‘the way he was walking which is why he intervened’.

Michael Lee Dalkin -Credit:Evening Gazette
Michael Lee Dalkin -Credit:Evening Gazette

Detective Inspector Chris Pringle from Cleveland Police also appeared in court to give evidence to clarify CCTV footage and what can be seen in the moments before Mr Hugill’s interaction with Michael Lee. Inspector Pringle explains that Mr Hugill can be seen “looking down at something but we can’t see what [on the footage].

He adds that Michael Lee had previously went to the bar “for something”. Ms Bryson questioned: “It says he went to pick up his pint,” before adding: “He was stood waving his hands about - see that to me is him dancing.” Inspector Pringle confirmed that no criminal action was brought against Mr Calvert or Mr Hugill.

When asked by coroner Bailey about the force used, the inspector stated that in the circumstances it was "proportionate" to take Michael Lee to the floor inside Goldies.

Shaun Calvert also gave evidence at the inquest confirming that he, along with Mr Hugill, finished work at Jokers between 12 and 12.30am on December 27, 2019. He stated that he had "three to four vodka Red Bulls” then “five or six” pints of Dark Fruits in Goldies.

Describing what happened in the bar, the door supervisor said: “There was a slight argument, a bit of a commotion, it seemed to have calmed down then Mr Dalkin walked towards the bar.” He added that Michael Lee “seemed wound up” and “agitated”.

Mr Calvert stated that he could see a glass behind Michael Lee’s back, adding: “I don't see why you'd pick up an empty glass off the bar. He was walking back towards the people who he’d had the argument with and that's when Mr Hugill intervened.”

Giving evidence about Mr Hugill confronting Michael Lee, Mr Calvert stated that Mr Hugill grabbed hold of Michael by his left arm and confirmed that he heard Mr Hugill told Michael Lee to “calm down” and “don’t do anything you’ll regret”. However, Ms Bryson questioned Mr Calvert stating that Michael Lee was right handed “so he would have had a pint or the glass in his right hand”.

Mr Calvert stated that he believed the force used by Mr Hugill to take Michael Lee to the floor was “reasonable” as he stated that he was “defending himself”. “There was no violence - no punches, no kicks,” he added.

Inquest continues.