Gardener 'saw flash of groom's gun fire'

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The Independent Online
The only known witness to the killing of millionaire racehorse trainer Alex Scott told a jury at Norwich Crown Court yesterday that he panicked and ran when a stud groom allegedly turned the gun on him.

Christopher Forster, a gardener, was the first witness to give evidence at the trial of William O'Brien, 58, a groom at the Glebe Stud, Cheveley, who lived in a bungalow near the barn on Mr Scott's stud farm near Newmarket, Cambridgeshire. Mr O'Brien pleads not guilty to murdering Mr Scott, 34, and threatening to kill Mr Forster.

Mr Forster, who lives near Glebe House, the Scott family home, said he had accompanied Mr Scott to Mr O'Brien's bungalow after the trainer sent a letter asking the groom to confirm his resignation in writing.

Mr O'Brien had told him he had advised his employer to "stuff his job", earlier that week, Mr Forster said.

He said the three men cleared Mr O'Brien's possessions out of the barn. Mr Scott then said to Mr O'Brien: "Lock it up and give me the keys." But the groom said: "No, no. I want you to come and see that everything's all right."

Mr Scott disappeared inside a small room in the barn. Mr Forster said: "I heard Mr Scott say 'there's no need for that'."

When he got to the doorway, he said, "I saw Mr Scott lying just inside the door on the floor. Mr O'Brien stood over him, the gun pointing towards him . . . He said 'This is for you, you bastard'. I heard the gun fire and I saw a flash of the gun.

"I said 'Bloody hell, Clem' [O'Brien]. He turned round towards me with the gun. He said 'the next one's for you'."

Mr Forster told James Hunt QC, for the prosecution, that he panicked and ran but Mr O'Brien aimed the gun at him. Then Mr O'Brien's wife appeared and he heard the groom say:"I have shot the bastard". Mr Forster ran to his cottage.

Mr Forster said he had been a gardener for the stud and family for two years. He believed Mr O'Brien - who had worked for the previous owner for many years - did not agree with the work practices of Mr Scott, who bought the stud in 1992.

The case continues.