Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

Gun dealer blasted wife with shotgun after becoming 'psychotic' during lockdown

A man who shot his wife with a shotgun has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after claiming a psychotic breakdown caused his actions.

Registered gun dealer Peter Hartshorne-Jones blasted his corporate solicitor Silke with a 12 bore shotgun in a bedroom at their 17th century home of Chestnut Farm in Barham, near Ipswich, Suffolk, in May.

After his arrest and initial charge for murder, prosecutors have now accepted the husband, 51, was suffering from ‘an abnormality of mental functioning’ at the time of the shooting, which occurred during lockdown.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that their two children were in the house at the time of the shooting, and had been present for ‘the aftermath’.

Hartshorne-Jones called emergency services at 4.45am on May 3 to report that he had shot his German-born wife, allegedly telling police: ‘I am sorry, I don’t know what came over me.’

Later, he was reported to have said he ‘didn’t mean to kill her’. Ipswich Crown Court was told this week that he had been suffering from a depressive illness for a long period which had been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutor Peter Gair said a report by consultant psychiatrist Frank Farnham, acting for the prosecution, had recognised the defendant’s ‘abnormality of mental functioning’ with ‘psychotic symptoms’ at the time of the killing.

However, it found ‘no evidence that he was legally insane at the time’ or incapable of having the intention to kill his wife.

An earlier hearing was told that Hartshorne-Jones had made multiple calls to a health professional in the 42 days from March 16 to April 27, resulting in 29 ‘call outs’ to his home by paramedics and other medical staff.

He claimed the defendant made the calls because he believed he had physical ailments, although the reason was ‘wholly or partly’ due to his mental impairment.

Mr Gair said: ‘My understanding is that he had a long term depressive illness that was exacerbated in the coronavirus period.’

Due to these circumstances, the prosecution decided not to proceed with a trial for murder and accepted the guilty plea of manslaughter.

Hartshorne-Jones sat with his head bowed in court, and only spoke to confirm his name.

The case was adjourned for sentencing in the week beginning on January 11 next year to allow further psychiatric reports on the degree of ‘dangerousness’ he posed and whether he intended to kill his wife.

At the time of the incident, neighbours spoke of their shock at the situation, with one describing the shooting as ‘the last thing you expect in a peaceful village like this’.

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