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Peer pressure led to fight, inquest told

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/06/2016

One of the brothers who gave Stephen Dudley a school-yard beating in the lead-up to his death says what happened will forever haunt him - but he denies the attack was lethal.

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

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

At a coroner's inquest into the cause of the death on Tuesday, the younger brother, now 18, wept as he told of his remorse over his part in the attack on a person he described as a "friend".

"The events of that day still haunt me and I think they will always do so," he said.

"Not a day goes by I don't regret getting into that fight."

At one point he broke down crying, having to take a break in his testimony to compose himself.

The 18-year-old said he and Stephen had a good relationship and both had bowed to peer pressure to fight, not wanting to looked "soft or weak" in front of the other boys that filmed the attack.

"I did not want to fight Stephen and I got the sense he didn't want to fight either," he said, describing them both as being gentle-natured and non-violent.

Stephen had cowered and tried to protect himself, but was on his feet when the brothers walked off the field, the 18-year-old told the inquest.

"We did not realise Stephen was not in a good way. If we did, we would have helped."

He denied the attack had contributed to Stephen's death but said he hope the boy's family understood his remorse.

"I can only imagine the pain his family must feel," he said. "I wish I had simply walked away."

Earlier in the week, several of Stephen's teammates described how he fell to the ground, gasping for breath after being struck in the neck from behind and then punched in the body repeatedly by the brothers.

They described the pair leaving the field as others tried to perform CPR and comfort the injured teen.

Stephen's parents have sat in the public gallery throughout the proceedings.

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.

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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