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Fatal fight lasted less than a minute

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/06/2016

Rugby teammates of Stephen Dudley have described the teen falling to the ground, gasping for breath and trying to protect himself during a school-yard beating in the lead-up to his death.

Stephen, 15, died in hospital after being punched in the neck and stomach by two brothers, aged 15 and 17 at the time, after school rugby training in Auckland in June 2013.

The teens admitted to the assault but were both discharged without conviction and a manslaughter charge against the older boy was dropped after Stephen was found to have an undiagnosed heart condition.

At a coroner's inquest into the cause of the death on Monday, one of Stephen's teammates, who cannot be named, described in detail the way the two boys beat the teen in the middle of a rugby field.

He said Stephen and the younger brother were being held back from each other during an argument when the older boy approached them and struck Stephen in the neck.

"He came around behind us using a closed fist," the teammate, who had been holding Stephen, said.

"He used heaps of force because Stephen fell back onto me.

The two boys then proceeded to punch Stephen repeatedly in the body, before walking off the field, he said.

"I let go of Stephen and he slowly fell to the ground. I could hear him gasp for breath," he said.

Another boy from the team said the fight had lasted less than a minute and he had filmed it on his iPod.

"Stephen was crouching over, covering his face trying to protect himself," he said.

The younger brother and Stephen had been earlier been arguing, he told coroner Gordon Matenga.

He described the group of teens present trying to give Stephen CPR and checking his pulse as he lay on the ground.

Stephen's parents sat in the public gallery throughout the evidence, his mother, Mona, holding back tears at times.

Sentencing the older teen in 2014, Justice Helen Winkelmann said there was nothing to distinguish the attack from an ordinary school-yard fight.

Both brothers have permanent name suppression and the school where the attack took place cannot be named for the time being.

Stephen's family hit out at the decision to discharge the older brother without conviction, with Stephen's father Brent Dudley calling the law "an ass".

The inquest continues.

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