RYAN Cooper, the Isle of Wight law student who killed Gunville man Gary Stacey with a single punch in 2016, failed to convince top judges to set him free during an appeal hearing on Friday.

Cooper, 23, of Alma Road, Southampton, was jailed for six years at Winchester Crown Court on April 12 last year.

He was convicted of the manslaughter of Gary Stacey, in Newport on Valentine's Day 2016.

He admitted punching the 49-year-old following a verbal disagreement in St James Street, at about 4am.

Mr Stacey suffered a fractured eye socket and hit his head on the ground, causing a fatal bleed on the brain.

Cooper had claimed at trial that he acted in self-defence after the victim moved towards him with 'clenched fists'.

On Friday, at London's Appeal Court, William Mousley QC argued that Cooper's conviction was 'unsafe' and should be overturned.

The trial judge should not have allowed two pieces of evidence to go before the jury, he told Lord Justice Irwin and two other senior judges.

One related to Cooper taking cocaine on the night of the attack and the other to text messages he had sent to his girlfriend.

Expert evidence showed traces of cocaine in Cooper's urine sample given to police, the court heard.

He had sent a text message to friends saying, 'I just did the biggest line of cocaine'.

Mr Mousley argued that the evidence was not relevant to the attack on Mr Stacey and had a 'significant prejudicial effect' on the jury.

But Lord Justice Irwin said the cocaine evidence was 'relevant and admissible as to Cooper's credibility and as to his state of mind'.

The text messages between Cooper and his girlfriend several months before the attack, included him saying he was 'going to lose it' if they ever broke up.

He would 'be so aggressive and fight anyone out' if their relationship ended, he wrote.

"The judge was entitled to consider this evidence as bearing on his credibility and his state of mind that evening," said Lord Justice Irwin.

It was "properly admitted and does not render the conviction unsafe", he added.

"The appeal against conviction is dismissed."

Mr Mousley also argued that Cooper's six-year jail term was far too tough and should be reduced.

He pointed to his relative youth and previously clean record.

But the Appeal judge said: "This sentence is not capable of challenge, it is not manifestly excessive."