TWO pubgoers were knocked out with a single blow after accidentally bumping into other customers on nights out in Bolton

One victim was reported to have been unconscious for four hours following the attack.

Bolton volunteer group Street Angels fears the assaults are evidence of a rise in so-called ‘coward punches’.

Suzanne McKinley was one of the volunteers called to assist the victims while on patrol.

She and the other Street Angels were called to Bradshawgate outside The Swan pub and found a man in his early 20s unconscious on the ground.

It is understood he had been headbutted and punched after bumping into someone.

Ms McKinley said: “He was lying unconscious but roused for a short period of time and sat up and said his name and then fell unconscious again.

“He had a mark on his face where his cheek was swollen and we wondered if he had fractured his eye socket, but as far as we know he didn’t.

“His mother later said he was unconscious for four hours at Salford Royal Hospital.”

The second incident happened the same night in Deansgate outside the Eagle and Castle pub where the victim, a man in his late 40s or early 50s, was found unconscious in the middle of the road with a lump on the back of his head.

Ms McKinley said: “He was an older guy out with his wife and some friends and he had accidentally stumbled into the girlfriend of another man and that man had turned round and punched him. Some friends had chased the man but he managed to get away.”

She said: “It seems to be happening more and more. People just seem to lash out very easily and there seems to be a lot more flashes of rage and people going out looking for a fight.

“These cases seem to be where guys have stumbled into someone by accident and they have got knocked out.

“’Coward punch’ is a term used in Australia, where I used to live and work, for a sucker-punch knockout.

“It used to be known as a ‘king hit’ but got re-branded as a reminder to people that it may only be one punch but that one punch can kill.”

A third incident happened inside The Swan pub and the Street Angels turned up to find the victim, a man in his 30s, being comforted and observed by one of the pub’s bouncers on the steps of the venue.

Ms McKinley said: “From what I’m told he was hit from behind.

“The man refused to give us details like his name, and refused to talk to us and did not want us to call him an ambulance.

“He got up and walked away and we saw him get into a taxi. He asssured us he was fine.”

The Street Angels patrol in hi-vis livered jackets on Saturdays and some holidays between 10pm and 3am to dish out water, tea, plasters, flip-flops and anti-drink tampering devices and to accompany lone women and ensure partygoers get home safely.

Ms McKinley said: “I was on patrol last night and there seems to be lots of fights going on for very little reason.

“I don’t want to portray Bolton as a really violent and aggressive town but these things are really happening.”

Police also revealed they are looking for a man who committed other crimes on Christmas Day.

The police want to speak to Reece Smith, aged 31, of Bolton.

He is sought on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and criminal damage at a number of addresses on Sunday December 25.

Anyone with any information about Smith’s whereabouts is asked to contact police on 0161 856 5608, 101 or via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Street Angels are looking for more volunteers. See for details.