Hostage taker got new gun licence

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A JUDGE called for an inquiry yesterday into why a man who took a hostage at gunpoint in 1986 was given another firearms licence, allowing him to shoot two people and kill a police dog.

On imposing four life sentences on 33-year-old Adam Willmott, Mr Justice Scott-Baker said the fact that Northamptonshire police granted him another firearms certificate in 1995 was "a matter of considerable disquiet".

During a violent rampage, Willmott, a self-employed builder from Irthlingborough,shot his girlfriend twice, wounded a police dog handler and killed the officer's dog.

He was sentenced yesterday at Oxford Crown Court after admitting two counts of wounding with intent, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, destroying a police dog and aggravated burglary.

The court was told of an evening of violence that began with Willmott and his then girlfriend, Susan Sturgess, playing a game of pub skittles in which, he said, she had sought to "humiliate" him.

Willmott later went to Ms Sturgess's home and threatened her and her daughter with a knife before they escaped to the home of a policeman who lived nearby.

Police called to the scene saw Willmott driving away, but he doubled back to break into the Sturgess house armed with his .22 rifle, 116 rounds of ammunition, a silencer and a telescopic lens. "The women screamed ... banging on the window to attract the attention of the two police officers still in the street," Michael Stokes QC, for the prosecution, said.

When they approached the house, Willmott shot Constable Ian Churms in the leg before walking over to him and saying: "Oh, I didn't kneecap you then?" He then killed the officer's German shepherd dog with a single shot in the neck, before shooting Ms Sturgess in the shoulder and left thigh.

The court was told that Ms Sturgess escaped to the house of Constable Ian Harris, who said he felt "petrified and helpless" as he heard Willmott battering down his kitchen door. But after a fight, the officer, a judo instructor, managed to disarm him.

Mr Justice Scott-Baker ordered a formal verdict of "not guilty" to be returned on a charge of attempting to murder Ms Sturgess. He told Willmott: "It is clear that you are ... unstable and potentially very dangerous. You should never have been trusted to possess a lethal weapon." He recommended that Willmott serve six years before being considered for parole.

Anne Rafferty, for the defence, said Willmott, a diabetic, blamed a wrong prescription of insulin for his behaviour.