A FISHMONGER attacked his former next door neighbour - nine years after he had an affair with his wife, a court heard.

Lee Owen assaulted his “former close friend” Steven Crook in August last year after the pair bumped into each other, walking along Blackburn Road.

Both had been drinking prior to the attack, Bolton Crown Court was told.

Owen broke his old pal’s nose, fractured a vertebrae and broke a tooth, which Mr Crook swallowed and which became lodged in his lung.

Defending, Paul Tonge said Owen wanted to offer a “full, complete and abject apology” to Mr Crook.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Crook took the unusual step of apologising to the defendant “for what he had done to provoke the attack”.

The two former neighbours had avoided each other for nine years after Owen, of Hill Cot Road, Astley Bridge, discovered that Mr Crook had been having an affair with his wife, the court heard.

Prosecuting, David Lees, said witnesses to the attack described seeing the two men grapple before Owen punched Mr Crook in the head, knocking him to the ground.

He added: “With Mr Crook lying on the floor, witnesses said he then delivered between three and five punches to his face.”

Mr Crook was taken to hospital and was unconscious when he arrived — the chipped tooth which had become lodged in his lung required two operations to remove.

Mr Tonge said: “The defendant is a good family man with two children, who runs his own fishmonger business — he has no previous convictions.”

Owen, who pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm, was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Recorder Timothy Hamman said: “It is a great shame that you are here today. You are 42 years old and have never been in trouble before.

“Whatever the background of this situation this was completely unacceptable. You repeatedly punched him in the face as he lay defenceless. It was a horrible and distressing incident.”