Reckless biker jailed over one-punch killing of care worker

An off-road biker who fatally punched a man who challenged him over his dangerous riding has been jailed for nine years after we exposed the lies he hoped would clear him.

James Rowley was tearing up grassland off Jubilee Crescent, Coventry, on a stolen scrambler on 17 March when he was approached by care manager Thady ‘Joe’ Higgins.

Witnesses earlier described seeing Rowley speeding through residential streets, jumping red lights and mounting pavements.

Killer James Rowley
Killer James Rowley

At one point he got into a row with a motorist after nearly causing a crash at traffic lights. 

Mr Higgins – who was celebrating St Patrick’s Day with family – feared for the safety of young children playing outside and urged Rowley to stop.

Rowley responded by revving the bike’s engine – the spinning wheels showering Mr Higgins and a friend with dirt – before flooring his victim with a single punch.

He suffered a serious head injury and died the following day in hospital.

Rowley picked up Mr Higgins’ St Patrick’s Day hat “as a trophy” and was heard laughing and he sped away on the bike.

We launched a murder enquiry and the 21-year-old handed himself in on 20 March as the net closed.

Rowley claimed Mr Higgins approached in an aggressive manner shouting “I’m gonna do you” and suggested he only threw a punch in self-defence. 

And in police interview he described himself as a dad and the “softest, nicest guy you ever come across”.

However, Rowley has a record of violence as a child, including an assault when he was just 14 when he grabbed his mother round the throat, slapped her across the face and later told police “she needs a bullet between her eyes”. 

And the CCTV and social media footage we obtained, plus accounts provided by witnesses, contradicted his version of events. 

In the face of compelling evidence Rowley later changed his account and went on to admit manslaughter and dangerous driving.

At Leamington Justice Centre yesterday (21 Sept) he was jailed for nine years.

Detective Inspector Jim Colclough described Mr Higgins’ death as tragic and senseless.

He added: “Joe grew up in the area and didn’t like people disrespecting his community. Witnesses describe him approaching Rowley politely; he wanted to convey his concerns for the danger he posed to people.

“Some witnesses described seeing Rowley laughing and dancing in the victim’s hat after the fatal punch. Rowley’s violence was witnessed by several children in the street.

“He lay low for two days before handing himself in. The judge said he spent the time ‘planning the lies he was to tell the police in interview’.

“But we had already gathered testimonies from independent witnesses, plus seized CCTV and social media video showing Rowley’s dangerous riding and the assault.

“My sympathies remain with Mr Higgins’ friends and family.”

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