Ex-soldier Aaron Wilkinson sentenced for killing woman

 

The family of a woman who was shot dead by a soldier left mentally scarred from the war in Afghanistan said today they were appalled at the length of his sentence.

Gamekeeper Aaron Wilkinson, 24, was jailed for a minimum of five years at Bradford Crown Court for killing 52-year-old Judith Garnett by shooting her in the chest and head.

But he will not be released until he no longer poses a threat to public safety.

Wilkinson was cleared in April of murdering Mrs Garnett but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Mrs Garnett's brother, Chris Higgins, said the sentence had "flattened" her relatives.

Speaking to journalists outside court, he said: "The family are appalled with the decision. It has flattened the family and we are going to appeal against it."

At the time of the killing, Wilkinson was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan during which he witnessed three Afghan soldiers being blown up by an improvised explosive device and suffered a shrapnel wound during an intense two-day battle with the Taliban.

He has also been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, or a similar condition, since his return from war in 2009.

Wilkinson, wearing glasses, a dark suit, white shirt and tie, showed no emotion as he was given the indeterminate jail sentence for the public protection with a minimum term of five years.

The former soldier, of Alma Street, Woodlesford, Leeds, joined the Territorial Army at 19 and went on a six-month tour of duty of Afghanistan in 2009.

Following his return from Afghanistan, Wilkinson moved into Mrs Garnett's attic room.

The court heard that Wilkinson had known Mrs Garnett since he was 13. He worked on her game farm and she acted as a mother figure to him.

Judge Justice Kenneth Parker said: "She was the one person who had showed you kindness, generosity and even maternal affection."

While staying in Mrs Garnett's attic, he applied to join the regular Army but his application was turned down.

He found it hard to adapt to civilian life and motivate himself and his relationship with Mrs Garnett began to deteriorate.

On the day of the shooting, January 24 last year, Mrs Garnett returned home and shouted at him for not letting her dogs out, calling him "thick" and a "cruel bastard".

The judge rejected Wilkinson's account that he shot Mrs Garnett three times after she threw his shotgun up through the hatch into his attic bedroom and told him to "pack his bags".

He said he could not believe Wilkinson's account that Mrs Garnett stood in the attic room and watched Wilkinson load the gun with two cartridges before shooting her.

He told Wilkinson: "I am satisfied that you had already loaded that gun. When she came to the attic you gave her no choice to say or do anything, you simply gunned down a defenceless woman."

Wilkinson said he could not explain why he shot Mrs Garnett and said it was as though he was in a "trance".

The jury accepted that the combination of Asperger's syndrome and PTSD had left Wilkinson unable to fully exercise self-control at the time of the attack.

But the judge rejected the idea that he could not exercise any at all as Wilkinson loaded a third cartridge into the shotgun and shot Mrs Garnett in the head, having already shot her twice.

He said: "There was an element of calculation in which you could have paused and made greater efforts to restrain yourself.

"After you had fired the first two shots either instinctively as you say, or with some calculation I think, you then calmly loaded a third cartridge and that is a moment where you could have made greater efforts to restrain yourself.

"You made death certain and you made the killing that much more horrific."

Mrs Garnett's sons are now orphans and her father has outlived her, the court heard.

The judge said: "This was a brutal killing of a woman in her own home. Her sons, who when young lost their father in a car accident, now have no mother.

"Your victim's elderly father has had to live to see his daughter die in the most shocking and distressing circumstances."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence