A MAN who beat a father-of-two to death after a row over a cigarette has been jailed for life.
Paul Nunn, 23, of Westbourne Road, Torquay, was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court yesterday for the fatal attack on "quiet family man" Ben Coaker on June 6 last year.
The court heard that Nunn had chased Mr Coaker into Lymington Road in the town after they argued and then beat him so badly he later died.
Sentencing Nunn to serve a minimum of 10 years for murder, Judge Graham Cottle said: "The story here is of an act of mindless, totally unprovoked violence, typical of the society in which we live."
Mr Coaker's widow, Polly, paid tribute to her husband after the hearing, saying: "He was the love of my life and my soul mate. When he was murdered I lost everything.
"He was a supportive, loving husband, the most amazing devoted daddy, a giving son, protective brother and a good friend to all who knew him.
"I am pleased with the verdict and grateful that I'll be able to tell our babies when they are older that everyone could see their daddy was taken cruelly and without provocation.
"I won't ever come to terms with how Ben died and there will be a permanent void in my heart for the rest of my life."
The 31-year-old Merchant Navy engineer left two children, now aged one and three.
The jury took just over an hour to reach its unanimous guilty verdict.
Judge Cottle told Nunn: "You punched and kicked Ben Coaker to death. He offered no threat to you whatsoever. He was totally innocent of any wrongdoing. He was a quiet family man.
"Mr Coaker's widow is struggling to make sense of it all and is struggling to remain strong, not least for her children."
He said Nunn was a man with "aggressive and violent tendencies which are capable of being triggered by the slightest incident".
Earlier in the trial, the court heard that, following a row over a cigarette, Nunn had chased his victim as he ran for his life, eventually catching up with him, punching him to the head and kicking him as he lay unconscious on the pavement. A witness held Mr Coaker in his arms to protect him from further blows. But by the time paramedics arrived four minutes later, he was effectively dead.
Tests showed he died from a massive blow to the side of the neck.
Det Insp Steve Parker, of the major crime investigation team, who was in charge of the investigation, welcomed the verdict.
He said: "Ben Coaker was an innocent victim who did nothing to provoke the attack he was subjected to. I hope that Ben's family, who have acted with great dignity throughout the court proceedings, will be able to take some comfort from the verdict."