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