Police said yesterday that they would be looking into allegations that the England footballer Ashley Cole shot a work-placement student with an air gun at Chelsea's training ground. The defender reportedly fired at Tom Cowan, 21, by accident from just five feet away with a .22 rifle, which he believed was not loaded, at the club's training facility in Cobham, Surrey.
Surrey Police said: "While no direct allegation has been made, the matter has been brought to our attention through reports in the media and we will be contacting the club to establish whether any criminal offence has been committed."
Chelsea said: "We have fully investigated the incident and we are taking appropriate action. We will not be commenting further as it is an internal matter." The .22 air rifle is the most powerful gun that can be owned in the UK without a licence and, if misused, can kill.
Mr Cowan, a sports science student at Loughborough University, was on a year's internship with the west London club. He reportedly had to be treated by the club's medical team after being hit in the side by a pellet, which led to considerable bleeding.
Under British law, Mr Cole could be charged with actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine. But it would be difficult for police to prosecute him without an allegation by Mr Cowan.