Accused told guest ‘goodnight sweetheart’ before pulling trigger

The Tan Hill Inn. Photo: Mike Dobson.

A holidaymaker who fled for his life as a man went berserk with a loaded gun at Tan Hill Inn has described the moment the gunman pointed the revolver at his head and said “goodnight sweetheart” before pulling the trigger. 

Lee Jackson told Teesside Crown Court that his pursuer Richard Bowser “looked surprised” when the gun misfired.

Mr Jackson made a run for it as Bowser, 46, appeared to reload the Uberti 1973 revolver.

He ran into a guest bunk room and locked the door behind him, only for Bowser to fire four shots through the wooden door.

One of the bullets struck Mr Jackson on the arm, two hit him in the body and one missed. 

He suffered a serious wound to his arm, which was bleeding and bandaged by the three terrified occupants inside the guest room. 

He was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital and ultimately discharged, but the bullet remains lodged in his arm to this day, some six months after the incident.

Bowser, a burly figure who was on a break with his wife at the time of the incident, was arrested at his glamping pod behind the pub. 

He was charged with two counts of attempted murder, an alternative charge of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possessing a prohibited weapon, namely the Uberti revolver and a Belgian .410 shotgun which police found at Bowser’s glamping pod, along with several rounds of ammunition.

Bowser, of Worcester Place, Bishop Auckland, denies the two allegations of attempted murder, wounding with intent and the two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, but admitted possessing the two prohibited weapons and three counts of assault relating to an incident inside the bar earlier that evening, when he assaulted the pub’s general manager Nicola Townsend, Mr Jackson’s brother-in-law Carl Pearson and head chef Ryan Lockwood, who was caused actual bodily harm.

Today, the third day of Bowser’s trial at the Crown Court, Mr Jackson, under cross-examination from Bowser’s barrister Alistair McDonald, said he had undergone therapy since the incident.

Mr McDonald suggested to Mr Jackson that he had “got it wrong” by claiming that Bowser had said “goodnight, sweetheart” before pulling the trigger next to a toilet block in the grounds of Tan Hill. 

Mr Jackson said he heard Bower say this and that he ran into a nearby guest room where three unsuspecting holidaymakers were in bed. 

Prosecutor Christine Egerton told the jury that the chain of disturbing events on July 21 last year began in the Tan Hill bar earlier that evening, where Bowser’s boorish behaviour disrupted the otherwise jovial atmosphere at the pub where people were sporting fancy dress in keeping with the night’s entertainment by a band called the Glam Rockers.

Bowser and his wife, from Durham, had arrived at the renowned tourist spot earlier that day for a holiday amid the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding dales.

Arriving in a Fiat 500 convertible, they had intended to stay in a glamping pod for an overnight stay behind the pub in Langthwaite, Arkengarthdale. But everything changed when Bowser went into the bar and began chatting to other guests and staff members who described him as “very large and…particularly loud”.

He became aggressive, especially so when he couldn’t pay for his drinks, possibly due to a “credit card that didn’t work” or problems with trying to pay on his phone. 

He became “increasingly irritated” with bar staff, to the point where pub manager Ms Townsend asked him to leave, causing him to become even more aggressive. 

Bowser lashed out at a male customer, who was named in court, and then shoved the bar manager and struck her on the head when she tried to come between them amid commotion and the breaking of drinks glasses. 

He then slapped and punched head chef Ryan Lockwood to the head when he tried to intervene, causing a cut under his eye.

“Other people tried to bundle the defendant out of the pub and get him out through the door,” said Ms Egerton.

One of them, Tan Hill guest Carl Pearson, who was wearing fancy dress, forced Bowser out of the main door into the lobby but was assaulted as he did so. 

Bowser then walked out of the pub and returned to his glamping pod, by which time pub staff had locked the doors to prevent him getting back inside.

“Meanwhile, a man called Lee Jackson, the brother-in-law of Carl Pearson, went to find his brother-in-law to check he was okay,” added Ms Egerton.

“Mr Jackson found his brother-in-law in a camper van. (Mr Pearson) was shaken up and then Mr Jackson decided to see if he could find the defendant.”

Mr Jackson found Bowser inside his glamping pod. Bowser said to him: “You have come for me?”

Mr Jackson said that “he was just looking for the toilet” and made his way towards the site’s convenience block. 

As he was about to enter the toilets, Bowser, who was following close behind and appeared to have an “item” protruding from his waistband, “pushed him further in”. 

“Mr Jackson turned around and tried to push his way out,” said Ms Egerton.

“It was at that point…that the defendant removed a firearm from his person…and he pulled that revolver towards Lee Jackson’s face or head area, and he pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.”

Ms Egerton said the revolver had “six chambers for bullets in it” but no projectiles were fired when Bowser pulled the trigger.

According to the prosecution, this was only because the Uberti gun “didn’t have a bullet in the chamber lined up with the firing mechanism”. 

Mr Jackson tried to escape by “bolting through a nearby door”.

“He closed that door behind him and ended up in one of the (guest) bunk-room bedrooms,” said Ms Egerton.

“That room had a number of bunks and three of those (beds) were occupied at the time. He shut the door behind him, but the defendant then fired four bullets from the revolver through that bunk-room bedroom door. 

“All four bullets penetrated the door. One bullet missed Mr Jackson; three bullets…hit Lee Jackson. One bullet lodged in his right arm; two bullets grazed his body on his chest and stomach.”

Bowser ran back to his glamping pod and “discharged a firearm into the open.”

Police were called and arrived at about 10.40pm by which time the entire complex was in lockdown. They found Bowser emerging from his glamping pod. 

He was Tasered before being arrested as officers searched the pod and found two firearms – the revolver and the Belgian shotgun. They also found ammunition both inside the pod and on Bowser himself.

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance landed in the grounds of the Tan Hill Inn. The crew tended to Mr Jackson and sent him to Darlington Hospital by land ambulance for treatment to his arm wound, albeit doctors were unable to dislodge the bullet from his arm.

Ms Egerton said the ammunition found at Bowser’s glamping pod and on his person included 3.22 rounds found on the floor of the igloo, 1.22 rounds discovered on the decking, a similar number of rounds on the gravel floor where Bowser was arrested, and nine shotgun rounds found in his pockets. 

A further two rounds were later found in his pockets when they were examined by police forensics. Discharged bullets were found inside the bunk room whose door was riddled with bullet holes.

Although Bowser had admitted “putting the gun to the head of Lee Jackson and pulling the trigger”, he claimed he only intended to frighten him. 

“The prosecution doesn’t accept that,” she added.

“The prosecution says that he attempted to kill Lee Jackson.”

She said that Bowser also admitted that he had loaded his gun as soon as Mr Jackson fled through the door, and that he fired four shots through the bunk-room door, but only to make Mr Jackson “understand that the gun was a real gun, as indeed it was”.

“He denies he was attempting to kill Mr Jackson,” added the prosecuting barrister.

“The prosecution case is that there was a clear intention to kill Lee Jackson at the time of the shooting through the door.”

The trial continues.