Weapon owner tells shot­gun death trial: ‘No way in hell it went off without some­one else touch­ing it’

Caernarfon Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

A GAMEKEEPER whose shot­gun fired and killed a teenager told a jury the weapon could not have gone off without some­one tam­per­ing with it.

Ben An­drew Wil­son, who de­nies gross neg­li­gence man­slaugh­ter, told a jury at Caernar­fon Crown Court that he had left the gun in a “safe con­fig­u­ra­tion” when he and oth­ers went to a pub in Aber­soch.

But Wil­son said that, on emerg­ing from the St Tud­wals pub, he saw his fel­low gamekeeper Ben­jamin Fitzsi­mons “dick­ing about” with the semi­au­to­matic shot­gun.

Wil­son also ad­mit­ted he may have left the ve­hi­cle un­locked for more than two hours with a loaded weapon in­side and in clear view.

Cross ex­am­ined by Ian Unsworth QC, rep­re­sent­ing Ben­jamin Fitzsi­mons, Wil­son said: “There was no way in hell that weapon could have gone off without some­one else touch­ing it.”

The 29-year-old, from Ely, Cam­bridgeshire, told the jury he ad­mit­ted pos­sess­ing a loaded shot­gun in a pub­lic place. Ex­plain­ing to the jury that the shot­gun was the one he used for work, Wil­son said he made the weapon as safe as pos­si­ble be­fore plac­ing it be­tween the seats of his Land Rover Dis­cov­ery.

Peter Col­well, of Capel Ucha near Clynnog Fawr, died of a sin­gle gun­shot wound to the face when the shot­gun fired. The 18-year-old was sit­ting in the back of the Land Rover, which was parked out­side the Ship Inn at Llanbedrog near Pwll­heli when he was killed just af­ter mid­night on Fe­bru­ary 5 last year.

He was on a night out with Wil­son, Fitzsi­mons and two other men, af­ter start­ing work at the Bo­d­uan Shoot just a few days ear­lier.

Wil­son told his coun­sel An­thony Berry QC that, on leav­ing the St Tud­wals, he made a nine-minute call on his mo­bile to an ex-part­ner and had not got into the ve­hi­cle straight away.

He said that, as he walked past the ve­hi­cle, he saw Fitzsi­mons with the gun, flick­ing the bolt back­wards and for­wards and lift­ing the lift plate. Wil­son said he partly opened the door and told him: “Stop dick­ing about with it.”

He car­ried on with the call and, when it was over, got back in and drove away, the court heard.

No one said any­thing when he got into the ve­hi­cle and no one showed him any­thing, said Wil­son.

Mr Unsworth asked Wil­son why he had not spo­ken of this when he was in­ter­viewed by po­lice the day af­ter the in­ci­dent. The jury heard Wil­son only men­tioned it to po­lice dur­ing a third in­ter­view in July.

“It com­pletely slipped my mind,” said Wil­son.

Later, at the Ship Inn, Wil­son was seen to re­turn to the ve­hi­cle and lean in, the court heard. He told the jury he was get­ting his darts, but ac­cepted he had not locked the ve­hi­cle when he left it.

The ve­hi­cle was left un­locked for more than two hours with the loaded shot­gun be­tween the front pas­sen­ger seat and the cen­tre con­sole, the court heard. Wil­son said: “It’s a ma­jor f*** up on my part.”

Mr Unsworth said the shot­gun should never have been in the car and should never have been loaded. “No,” said Wil­son. Af­ter the fa­tal shot was fired, Wil­son said he went to Fitzsi­mons and de­manded to know what had hap- pened. “He said he didn’t do any­thing. I was an­gry,” he said.

Wil­son told the jury he had been a gamekeeper at var­i­ous es­tates since he left agri­cul­tural col­lege at the age of 18. Since the shoot­ing, he has lost his gun li­cences and is now work­ing for a builder in Cam­bridgeshire and liv­ing with his par­ents.

He said he “ab­so­lutely loved” work­ing as a gamekeeper and ac­cepted he was seek­ing to pro­tect his gun li­cences when he called the Bo­d­uan shoot’s owner’s wife to go to his home and re­trieve two weapons in the lounge. The jury have heard all weapons should have been se­curely stored in a cab­i­net.

Wil­son and Ben­jamin Ge­orge Fitzsi­mons, 23, of Nan­horon, Pwll­heli, both deny gross neg­li­gence man­slaugh­ter. Harry Robert But­ler, 23, of Lla­ni­estyn, Pwll­heli, and labourer Michael David Fitzsi­mons, 25, of Nan­horon, Pwll­heli, deny pos­sess­ing a loaded shot­gun in pub­lic places, at Pwll­heli, the Bod­fuan Es­tate, Aber­soch and Llanbedrog in Fe­bru­ary last year. The trial con­tin­ues. ■ Gamekeeper Ben An­drew Wil­son, main, de­nies gross neg­li­gence man­slaugh­ter over the death of Peter Col­well, right

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