‘Bullet-proof vest’ killer jailed


Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

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A man who shot and killed a friend who was wearing what he thought was a bullet-proof vest has been sentenced to seven years’ in jail.

Lorry driver Ian Catley fired a shotgun at his friend Philip Harper in a farmer’s field near Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, on June 29 last year, killing him almost instantly.

The 40-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.

Southwark Crown Court today heard Mr Harper had visited a military surplus store the previous day and was “very keen” to test the effectiveness of his new kit, which was described by prosecutor Martin Mulgrew as a “protective” vest, though the victim apparently believed it to be bullet-proof.

“You shot Mr Harper at a distance of less than 20 feet, causing him catastrophic injuries and immediate death,” Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC told Catley at sentencing. “You then, straight away, took him to hospital but tragically, nothing could be done to save his life.”

Catley stared straight ahead in the dock as the sentence came down, while his mother appeared to fight back tears from the public gallery.

The court heard the two friends had been close and Catley had nightmares about what he had done. “Your remorse is complete and genuine,” the judge said. “You recognise the magnitude of your actions and I have no doubt that the effects of killing your good friend will last with you for the rest of your life.”

But he said Catley, as a gun licence-holder, had “manifestly breached those obligations and duties”.

Defence barrister Mark McDonald argued that the killing was the result of a stupid and reckless act to which the “keen” Mr Harper had nevertheless consented.

The court heard that after leaving Rugby Trading International Ltd with his new vest, Mr Harper had asked a friend – James Hill – to help him test it out, but that Mr Hill had flatly refused.

“(Mr Harper) was very proud of it. He’d gone to the pub that evening wearing that vest and indeed a SWAT cap,” Mr McDonald said.

“After a drink or so, he asked more people, and Mr Catley agreed to do a stupid and undoubtedly reckless act.”

Prosecutor Mr Mulgrew said that the vest – far from being bulletproof – had a plastic casing that actually funnelled the shotgun spray into the centre of Mr Harper’s chest, slicing an artery.

He said Catley attempted to save his friend.

“He was panicking, upset and swearing,” Mr Mulgrew said.

“But it was clear to the paramedics at first sight that there was very little that could be done to save Mr Harper’s life.”

He said Catley had first claimed he had been aiming for a pigeon and hit his friend by accident, but quickly came clean.

Catley will serve up to half his seven-year term, and the judge ordered that his gun be forfeited and destroyed.

Detective Inspector Ian Simmons, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: “This is a particularly sad case, where a foolish incident ended in tragedy.

“These second-hand protective vests should not be relied on whatsoever to protect you from gunshot and I’m urging people to take this as a warning.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Mr Harper’s family and friends at this time.”

Published: Friday 16th January 2015 by The News Editor

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