‘He was such a special person': Heartbroken family of man, 78, killed by one punch pay tribute

Michael Dawson
-Credit: (Image: Supplied)


The heartbroken family of a man who was killed by one punch have paid tribute to the 'special, generous, hard working' and funny 'head of the family'.

Michael Dawson was just two weeks short of his 79th birthday when he left The Bank pub in Bury Town Centre after a night of singing on the karaoke. He thanked the landlady, telling her: “I had a wonderful night tonight”.

As he was walking to get the last tram home in August last year, Nathan Pilling rode past him at speed on the pavement on an electric bike. Michael told him to ‘get his lights on and get off the pavement’.

READ MORE: First picture of 78-year-old victim released as man pleads guilty to manslaughter

Minutes later he lay unconscious on the ground. Two weeks later he sadly died, surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

On Monday this week, Pilling, 24, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Michael on the first day of his trial and was remanded into custody. He will be sentenced later this year.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, a spokesperson for Michael’s family who wished to remain anonymous to protect their privacy, said: “A 23-year-old hit a man who was almost 79, almost four times his age, rendering him unconscious.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson -Credit:Supplied

“We only found out the following morning. The police struggled to get in contact with his next of kin, he was an older gentleman so didn’t have a smartphone, and his granddaughter was working so they got in touch with her partner instead.

“We rushed to his bedside and were told by the police that he was in critical condition having been assaulted the night before.

“The doctors told us he was unlikely to recover and if he was, he was going to be in a vegetative state and needing a lot of care. That he wouldn’t be the same person.”

The family sat with Michael everyday until two weeks later he was getting worse and so they had to make the heartbreaking decision to switch his life support machine off on September 8.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson -Credit:Greater Manchester Police

“It was horrific,” they said.

“He was the head of the family. He was more of a dad than a grandad and essentially brought us up. He was our best friend and we told him about everything. We would go on walks together and go hiking, we spent a lot of time together.

“He was an independent guy, he liked to just crack on. He would say ‘you can’t live your life wrapped up in cotton wool’ and he wanted to do his own thing.

“He was a Good Samaritan in every sense of the word and was always looking out for other people.

“What’s wrong with saying ‘get some lights on your bike’? It’s easy afterwards to say ‘be careful’ but if nobody speaks up these things will keep happening.”

Michael loved singing and often went to karaoke nights around Greater Manchester
Michael loved singing and often went to karaoke nights around Greater Manchester -Credit:Supplied

Michael was to be the best man for his cousin’s wedding - his cousin is in his 80s and had found love again. He also had a love for singing, and would go round to various karaoke nights across Manchester and Bury, though he had said to family members that he was worried that Bury was becoming 'a bit rough'.

“He was always a hard working man, he was a heating engineer by trade, he worked all over the world. He met his wife in Africa, he’s still got family over in Namibia,” his family said.

“He worked hard and provided a home and stable life for us all. Our nana passed away 20 years ago and he struggled through that, but after some years he joined some walking groups and got involved in karaoke and was enjoying his life, he had got some love in his life again.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson -Credit:Greater Manchester Police

“He would go on walking holidays. He went to Ibiza before I did! He was leading hikes, enjoying karaoke but also enjoying the calm moments with family.

“He was so independent, you would go round to see him and he would be on the roof fixing something. We would say to him ‘we can do that for you’ and he would say ‘no I don’t want to put you out’. He enjoyed being able to do stuff.

“He was also a very generous man. He wouldn’t put the heating on even though he had the money in the bank as he wanted to save it for us - he would give you the shirt off his back. People from his walking groups said they would give him his food and he would make sure they got there first. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.

Michael Dawson, 78, was often out hiking
Michael Dawson, 78, was often out hiking -Credit:Supplied

“He was just a character though, he was funny. He didn’t take himself too seriously, he had a laugh at himself but then would also have really serious conversations. He didn’t want to slow down.”

On Monday, over 30 members of Michael’s family attended Minshull Street Crown Court to watch on as Pilling pleaded guilty.

“When he pleaded guilty it felt quite melancholy, like it was the best case scenario but there was no happiness. It was a really strange situation,” they said.

“He was such a special person, there’s a void that can’t ever be filled and we just miss him so much.

Michael was described as a 'character' by his loved ones
Michael was described as a 'character' by his loved ones -Credit:Supplied

“He was from that generation that showed respect and it’s a shame to see how things have changed. There is a lack of respect around for people and nobody seems to care.

“To be able to actually hit someone, there's no need and those actions could have been avoided and he could be getting ready to be the best man right now and writing his speech. We could have avoided this pain.”

Pilling, of Deal Street, Bury, will be sentenced on August 20 at Minshull Street Crown Court.