Man jailed for killing friend who was testing ‘bullet-proof’ vest in Cambridgeshire

Ian Catley shot Philip Harper with a shotgun, killing him almost instantly

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A man who shot and killed a friend who was wearing what he thought was a bullet-proof vest has been sentenced to seven years in jail.

The lorry driver Ian Catley fired a shotgun at his friend Philip Harper in a field near Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, on 29 June last year, killing him almost instantly.

The 40-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.

Southwark Crown Court heard Mr Harper had visited a military surplus store the previous day and was “very keen” to test the effectiveness of his new kit, which was described by Martin Mulgrew, prosecuting, as a “protective” vest, though the victim apparently believed it to be bullet-proof.

“You shot Mr Harper at a distance of less than 20ft, causing him catastrophic injuries and immediate death,” Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC told Catley at sentencing.

The court heard the two friends had been close and Catley had nightmares about what he had done. “Your remorse is complete and genuine,” the judge said. “You recognise the magnitude of your actions and I have no doubt that the effects of killing your good friend will last with you for the rest of your life.”

But he said Catley, as a gun licence-holder, had “manifestly breached those obligations and duties”.

The court heard that after leaving Rugby Trading International Ltd with his new vest, Mr Harper had asked a friend – James Hill – to help him test it out, but that Mr Hill had refused. “After a drink or so, he asked more people, and Mr Catley agreed to do a stupid and undoubtedly reckless act.”

Mr Mulgrew said that the vest – far from being bulletproof – had a plastic casing that actually funnelled the shotgun spray into the centre of Mr Harper’s chest. Catley will serve up to half his term.