Soldier jailed for firing rifle in struggle

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The Independent Online

An army colour sergeant who terrified another soldier with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle that he fired during a struggle to disarm him was today jailed for six years.

Matthew Wells, 42, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, took the loaded gun and three grenades in a holdall to a meeting with Regimental Quartermaster Glen Martin, Winchester Crown Court was told.

James Kellam, prosecuting, said Wells became agitated in the meeting in Gibraltar Barracks, Camberley, Surrey, on November 13 last year over a misunderstanding about the treatment of another soldier Lance Sergeant Susan Reynolds.

Wells then reached into his holdall, took out the assault rifle, cocked it and pointed it at Mr Martin.

Mr Kellam said that Mr Martin reacted immediately.

"His first action was to strike the gun barrel with his left hand before jumping across his desk and grabbing the barrel of the weapon, keeping it pointed away from him."

Wells then fired the rifle as the men fought and the court was told the burst discharged seven rounds, one of which is likely to have passed through Mr Martin's uniform.

"Bullets struck the wall from one side of the room to the other," Mr Kellam said.

The shooting only stopped when the gun jammed and Mr Martin overpowered Wells and disarmed him.

The Quartermaster suffered a compound dislocated finger during the struggle.

In police interview, Wells said he wanted to scare Mr Martin before killing himself.

The court heard other magazines of bullets were found in the holdall and in his room and the gun was not British issue.

Wells had served in all major conflicts since the Falklands and until a few weeks before he had been posted to the Civilian Military Co-operation Group CIMIC in Afghanistan.

In mitigation the court heard Wells was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident and that he had a "exemplary" military career.

At the time of the offences he was a territorial soldier serving on a regular army contract.

Wells admitted possessing the firearm with intent to cause fear of violence at an earlier hearing. He also pleaded guilty to having three grenades in his possession.

Sentencing him to six years for the firearm offence and two years concurrent for the possession of the grenades, Mr Justice Butterfield said the incident had been a "grave offence" but he had taken into consideration his illness and military career when deciding sentence.

Speaking after the hearing, the investigating officer, Detective Constable Susan Hyland said that Mr Martin had been terrified.

"This could have had potentially disastrous consequences but they were avoided by the quick actions of Glen Martin."