Man accused of fatally punching surgeon 'didn't mean to hit him so hard'

A man accused of fatally punching a Melbourne surgeon, says he felt pressured by a dispute over a smoking ban and that the doctor was “up for” a confrontation.

A Supreme Court jury trial started on Monday for Joseph Esmaili, 24, who is charged with one count of manslaughter over an incident at Box Hill hospital in May last year.

Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, died in June 2017 when his life support was turned off, four weeks after the alleged assault.

“I felt he pressured me. I can’t handle things like that,” Esmaili told police during an interview recounted by prosecutors in court.

Joseph Esmaili, 24, is charged with one count of manslaughter over an incident at Box Hill hospital in May last year. Source: AAP

The accused said in the interview he didn’t mean to hit the surgeon hard and he shouldn’t have done it.

“I kept saying get the f*** away from me,” Esmaili said to police.

Chief prosecutor Brendan Kissane QC said in his opening the accused swore at Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann after the surgeon asked security to remove him and friends for smoking in a non-smoking area.

“The accused walked to the area and overheard Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann speaking to the reception staff and said ‘how about you go get f***ed?’,” Mr Kissane said.

The argument escalated near the lifts and Esmaili allegedly punched the surgeon and fled the hospital.

Melbourne heart surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegman died four weeks after he was allegedly assaulted near the entrance of the hospital where he worked. Source: AAP

Footage of the attack, captured on the hospital’s CCTV cameras, was shown to jurors on Monday.

The then-22-year-old Esmaili was interviewed by police the next day after his father saw him on the news and dobbed him in.

Defence barrister John Desmond argued the doctor had been aggressive towards Esmaili and followed him several times in the hospital.

“My client is retreating,” Mr Desmond said referring to CCTV footage.

“It’s the doctor who continues to pursue. He puts down his bag. He’s up for it,” Mr Desmond told the court.

Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann suffered bilateral skull fractures and was seen bleeding from the nose and mouth after the attack, the court was told.

People pay their respects at the entrance to Box Hill Hospital in memory of surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann. Source: AAP

After receiving immediate treatment at Box Hill Hospital he was transferred to The Alfred and spent several weeks in a coma.

His life support was turned off on June 27 and he died a day later.

The jury is due to visit Box Hill Hospital to survey the scene on Tuesday morning and three witnesses are expected to give evidence in the afternoon.