Whitbourne shooting trial - jury to consider their verdict today

Hereford Times: Whitbourne shooting trial - jury to consider their verdict today Whitbourne shooting trial - jury to consider their verdict today

THE jury in the case of a farmhouse owner who shot and badly injured a man while he was trying to break in to his home will retire today to consider their verdict.

Malcolm White, aged 64, injured attempted burglar Robert Richards so badly he had to have his leg amputated when he shot him outside his home at Stocking Gobbetts, Whitbourne, on October 5, 2011.

Richards and others had started to smash their way in through the front window of the house White shared with his partner Josephine Merrick when White, wielding a shotgun, appeared.

He claims he had only intended to fire a warning shot, and did not mean to hit anybody, but caught Richards in the thigh.

One of Richards' accomplices then returned fire.

Prosecutor Simon Phillips told Worcester Crown Court White had "fired first, before asking any questions" because he had known the burglars were after his stash of the Class B drug.

He said the angle of the shot fired and how close White would have been to Richards when he fired the gun made it unlikely to have been an accident.

He said White could not have known the level of threat posed by the intruders, and did not know they had a gun, and so to discharge a shotgun was excessive in the circumstances.

But White's lawyer argued the case against him was based on "complete and utter speculation."

Closing the defence case, Brian Dean said White had freely admitted firing the shotgun - but argued that did not amount to "unreasonable force".

"It was one shot," he said.

"Malcolm White did not follow up in any other way. He did not try to shoot Richards in the head, or torso, where the vital organs are.

He did not return fire at the man who undoubtedly shot at him to kill.

"This was a serious attack. There was a genuine and immediate danger to this couple. Malcolm White had just a moment to decide what to do."

He urged the jury to make allowances for the circumstances, and dismissed the prosecutor's suggestion in his closing speech that other, more "reasonable" courses of action should have been taken first.

Mr Dean said the only two members of the gang to have been caught - Richards and Darren Randall - had refused to speak about the crime even after being jailed for attempted aggravated burglary, meaning prosecutors' allegations that they were after the £60,000 cannabis farm in White's garage was "complete and utter speculation".

They could have been after a collection of valuable grandfather clocks White had, or his £35,000 leased Audi, he added.

Mr Dean also warned that Miss Merrick - the main prosecution witness - should be seen as an "unreliable" one whose account had changed several times.

He accused police of "putting words in her mouth" and bombarding her with repeated questions over a 10-hour period to get the answers they wanted.

"Mr White's account has been clear and consistent from day one, when he was first questioned," he said.

"He did not lie about discharging his gun - he told police that in his 999 call.

"He called police even though he knew he would be in trouble over the cannabis."

Summing up, Judge Robert Juckes QC told the jury the issue was whether White intended to simply fire a warning shot or whether he intended to hit him.

White denies one charge of unlawful wounding.

The trial continues.


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