AN ELDERLY man died in hospital after surgery for injuries he received in an unprovoked town centre attack.

Colin Rushton was on his way to get cash from an ATM with his friend, Geoff Guffog when they were confronted by cocaine and alcohol fuelled Kieran Harris in Bark Street on November 30 last year

Harris punched Mr Rushton in the face and he fractured his shin in two places as he fell.

But while recovering in hospital from surgery, doctors discovered he had liver cancer and 68-year-old Mr Rushton died three weeks after the attack.

At Bolton Crown Court, jailing Harris for two years and four months, Judge Richard Gioserano told him: "It's not said that the injury you inflicted upon him caused or contributed to his death. If it had you would have been facing a manslaughter charge now.

"But the injury you inflicted on this elderly man minding, his own business, for no good reason, whilst you were under the influence of drink or drugs, saw him hospitalised in what proved to be the last few weeks of his life in significant pain and discomfort.

"That is a serious and, I have to say, unusual feature of this offence."

Harris, aged 31, of no fixed address, had pleaded guilty to causing Mr Rushton grievous bodily harm and using threatening behaviour toward 43-year-old Mr Guffog

Alaric Bassano, prosecuting, told how, just before 6pm on the day of the attack, Harris and a companion were in the town centre behaving aggressively towards people in the street.

"They were swearing, agitated, squaring up to members of the public, evidently intoxicated," said Mr Bassano.

"It it quite clear this conduct was causing other people considerable alarm and even fear.

"More than one witness refers to seeking to avoid having contact with the defendant, moving out of the way and crossing the road so as not to bring trouble to themselves."

Mr Rushton, who has a number of ailments and lived in a care home, was being helped to get to a cash machine by Mr Guffog when they saw Harris and his companion in Bark Street.

"They sought to avoid him,but they were unable to do so " said Mr Bassano.

Harris first approached Mr Guffog and took a swing at him, which missed, after demanding: "What the f.... are you looking at."

He then turned his attention to Mr Rushton, who was punched in the face.

"He was clearly bent on taking something out on someone else for whatever reason, " commented Judge Gioserano.

Harris ran off but was arrested and then wrongly tried to claim he had been provoked by Mr Rushton.

The court heard that Harris has numerous previous convictions for violence, but Steven Sullivan, defending, said, following Mr Rushton's death, he is hoping to go on courses to address his behaviour.

He added:"This has had a salutory and profound effect upon him — the thought, that he has had to live with, that he may have caused the death of another human being has caused him to think very carefully about his conduct in the past."

Judge Gioserano told Harris: "You have a bad record for violence. You have been made the subject, over the years, of numerous court disposals for offences of violence. It seems to me you have learnt absolutely nothing from any of that.

"Here you are, out and about, clearly looking for trouble and picking on anybody who had the misfortune to encounter you."