Gun club man killed car thief

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The Independent Online
A gun club member on his way home after a day's pistol practice shot and killed a man who was attempting to break into his car, a court heard yesterday.

Martin Wise, a 36-year-old gamekeeper, appeared at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent accused of the manslaughter of Matthew Hodge, 20, whom he shot through the heart at point blank range with a .25 auto Baby Browning pistol in August last year. The father-of-three, from Hildenborough, Kent, denies manslaughter.

Prosecutor Michael Gale QC said on the day of the shooting Mr Wise had been practising at a pistol club. He held a firearms certificate enabling him to possess shotguns, rifles and pistols.

The certificate required him to keep the guns at his parents' house and Mr Wise was on his way to return the guns when he caught Mr Hodge meddling with his Ford Escort car.

The pistol was in Mr Wise's trouser pocket and he said he did not know it was loaded. He told police it went off accidentally after he pulled it from his pocket and cocked it to warn Mr Hodge. He said he feared attack after Mr Hodge lunged at him with a spanner.

"There is a possibility, however, that he knew somebody was interfering with the car and armed himself with a weapon in order to confront this thief," Mr Gale said.

He added that scientific evidence would prove that the gun could not be fired accidentally. Bruising found on the inside of Mr Hodge's arm indicated that his arm was positioned behind his body at the time he was shot.

"If that is right it is inconsistent with the defendant's account that Mr Hodge was coming at him with the monkey wrench."

The court heard that Mr Hodge stumbled to a getaway car but fell unconscious before it reached hospital. Attempts to revive him failed.

The case continues.