Man cleared of attempted murder after Tan Hill shooting – but found guilty of wounding with intent

The Tan Hill Inn. Photo: Mike Dobson.

A man has been cleared of attempted murder but found guilty of wounding with intent to endanger life following a shooting incident at the Tan Hill Inn.

Richard Bowser, 46, was accused of trying to kill fellow holidaymaker Lee Jackson by aiming a revolver at his head and then firing four shots through the door of a guest bunk room at the pub.

Mr Jackson, who sought refuge in the bunk room and bolted the door shut after the first shot misfired, was struck on the arm by one of the bullets. Two bullets grazed him on the body and one missed and struck a wall.

An air ambulance took Mr Jackson to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was ultimately discharged after being treated for the arm wound, albeit doctors couldn’t remove the bullet.

Today, at Teesside Crown Court, Mr Bowser was found not guilty of two counts of attempted murder but guilty of wounding with intent to do Mr Jackson serious bodily harm and two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

He had already pleaded guilty before the trial to assaulting the pub’s head chef Ryan Lockwood, causing him actual bodily harm, and two counts of assault by beating against Tan Hill’s general manager Nicola Townsend and a fellow guest inside the bar earlier in the evening.

Bowser also admitted two counts of possessing prohibited weapons – the revolver and a Belgian .410 shotgun which was found in his glamping pod after the shooting.

The jury heard that Bowser followed Mr Jackson to a toilet block in the grounds of the pub following some trouble inside the bar instigated by Bowser which forced staff to eject him.

Bowser, a heavily built man who stands at 6ft 4in, took out an Uberti 1973 revolver and fired a shot at Mr Jackson’s head, but it misfired, said prosecutor Christine Egerton.

Mr Jackson ran for his life into a guest room and shut the door behind him, whereupon Bowser fired four shots through the door. One of the bullets struck him on the arm, two hit him in the body and one missed.

Police were called out and used a Taser stun gun to incapacitate Bowser before arresting him.

The horrifying scenes unfolded on the evening of July 21 last year after the incident inside the bar in which Bowser assaulted manager Ms Townsend, chef Mr Lockwood and Mr Jackson’s brother-in-law Carl Pearson.

Bowser and his wife, from Durham, had arrived at the inn and guest house, a renowned tourist spot famous for being ‘Britain’s highest pub’, earlier that day for a holiday amid the breath-taking beauty of the surrounding dales.

Arriving in a Fiat 500 convertible, they intended to stay in a glamping pod for an overnight stay behind the pub in Langthwaite, Arkengarthdale, where 30 guests were staying in motorhomes, tents and guest rooms. But everything changed when Bowser, a strapping figure, went into the bar and began chatting to other guests and staff members who described him as “very large and…particularly loud”.

The ambience had been jovial, with people in fancy dress in keeping with the night’s entertainment – a live performance by a band called the Glam Rockers in the pub barn. But, as the evening progressed, the atmosphere soured due to Bowser’s increasingly aggressive behaviour.

Ms Egerton said it appeared that for whatever reason, Bowser 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 that Ms Townsend asked him to leave, causing him to become even more aggressive.

Witnesses described his behaviour as “completely out of control” and that he was “in complete rage”.

He was heard to shout: “All I want to do is pay my fxxxxxx bill.”

He allegedly called a staff member a “fxxxxxx sxxx” and allegedly said: “I’ll fxxxxxx slap you; I’ll take you all on.”

He lashed out at a named male customer, who was punched in the head, 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 Mr 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 Mr Pearson, who was wearing 1970’s-style 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, minus one shoe which had become dislodged during the altercation inside the lobby, and allegedly “squared up” to two male bikers and said to them: “I’ll take you on if you like.”

The bikers said they backed off and retreated back inside the pub.

One witness said he saw Bowser trying on three occasions to get back inside the pub through the main door and by trying to open the windows. He then returned to his glamping pod, by which time the pub was in lockdown to prevent Bowser getting back inside.

“Meanwhile, 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 him with a revolver protruding from his waistband, allegedly “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.”

The prosecution claimed that the revolver was touching Mr Jackson’s head as Bowser allegedly said “Goodnight, sweetheart”, and pulled the trigger.

The defence disputed this and claimed there were no bullets inside the weapon at that point.

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

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

Mr Jackson, who initially thought the revolver wasn’t a genuine firearm, tried to escape by “bolting through a nearby door” after Bowser allegedly told him: “I’ll show you the gun is real.”

He sought refuge in the guest bunk room after Bowser appeared to reload the gun, said Ms Egerton.

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

“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 penetrated the door and hit Lee Jackson. One bullet lodged in his right arm; two bullets grazed his body on his chest and stomach.

“The guests in that bunk room…were disturbed. They grabbed something to wrap around his (bloodied) arm. He rang the police from his mobile.

“The defendant, meanwhile, ran back to his glamping pod and he discharged a firearm into the open.”

A named woman who was inside the bunk room at the time said she was awoken by “shouting and swearing”. She then saw the silhouette of a man, now known to be Mr Jackson, rush into the pitch-black room and slam the door shut.

The woman, who was with her partner and two other guests, said she then heard what sounded like a “nail gun or an electric stapler” and then saw Mr Jackson put a towel around his arm after apparently being shot. Wood shrapnel from the bullet-riddled door had come through into the room.

Police arrived at about 10.40pm and found Bowser emerging from his glamping pod. He was Tasered and arrested as officers searched the pod and found two the firearms on his bed. They also found ammunition both inside the pod and on Bowser himself.

Bowser, of Worcester Place, Bishop Auckland, was charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. He was also charged with wounding with intent to do Mr Jackson grievous bodily harm during the incident at the bunk room, as an alternative to attempted murder. He denied all five allegations.

Ms Egerton said that although Bowser had admitted “putting the gun to the head of Lee Jackson and pulling the trigger” he claimed that he only intended to frighten him.

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

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

Defence barrister Alistair McDonald said that the shots fired towards the room were “reckless” rather than an intent to kill or endanger life which was not enough for a jury to convict of attempted murder.

He said there was no intention on Bowser’s part to murder Mr Jackson.

Bowser will be sentenced on January 24.