A former businessman who blasted four shots through a guestroom door at Tan Hill has been jailed for 19 years.
Richard Bowser, 46, a former tanning-shop owner with a record for violence and carrying weapons, appeared at Teesside Crown Court for sentence today after a jury found him guilty of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Bowser had followed victim Lee Jackson to a toilet block in the grounds of the Tan Hill following a melee inside the bar where the ex-businessman had attacked a customer and two members of staff.
That customer was Mr Jackson’s brother-in-law Carl Pearson, whom Bowser assaulted after flying into a drunken rage because his card was declined when he tried to pay for his last round of drinks.
Following the flare-up, Mr Jackson, who was not involved in the initial disturbance, went looking for Bowser and found him at his glamping pod.
Instead of confronting the 6ft 4in villain, Mr Jackson headed for the site’s toilet block and was followed closely by Bowser who was now carrying a converted Uberti 1973 revolver in his waistband.
Upon reaching the toilets, Bowser pushed Mr Jackson inside, leaving the latter cornered against a wall. He then aimed the gun at Mr Jackson’s head, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired.
Terrified Mr Jackson laughed with relief, but Bowser said “I’ll show you this is a real gun” and appeared to reload the weapon.
Mr Jackson darted into a nearby guest bunk room where three startled guests, who were in bed, saw the silhouette of a man in the darkened room who slammed and locked the door behind him.
He was “bracing himself behind the door” as Bowser fired four shots through the door – one hitting him in the arm, two grazing his body and one missing and striking a wall. The bullet which missed caused a crater in the plasterwork. Wood splinters from the blasts were strewn across the room.
Mr Jackson wrapped a towel around his bleeding arm as the terrified guests went to his aid. Police were called and the holiday complex was put in lockdown as Bowser walked calmly back to his glamping pod and fired a shot into the air with his shotgun.
Following the shooting on the evening of July 21 last year, Mr Jackson was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was treated for the wound to his arm. He was ultimately discharged but doctors were unable to remove the bullet which remained in his forearm to this day.
Police arrived at the pub and used a Taser gun to incapacitate Bowser before arresting him. They found rounds of ammunition at the glamping pod and inside Bowser’s pockets, along with a second weapon, a Belgian .410 shotgun, on his bed.
Bowser, from Bishop Auckland, told officers he was carrying the weapons because he had had a long-running feud with a man, or gang, from his area which made him fear for his and his family’s lives.
He said he feared they might try to ambush him on his way to the Tan Hill Inn and that if he were released from custody, he would “blow their heads off”.
He told officers he would “kill the lot of them; I’m not trying to hide fxxx all”.
Bowser had travelled to the pub with his wife, who had no involvement in the incident, in a Fiat 500 convertible. They intended to stay overnight in a glamping pod behind the pub where 30 guests were staying in motorhomes, tents and guest rooms.
The atmosphere inside the bar was jovial, but everything changed when Bowser started becoming loud, drunk and aggressive, culminating in the incident with bar staff when he tried unsuccessfully to pay for his drinks and the assaults on Mr Pearson, chef Ryan Lockwood, who suffered a cut below his eye, and general manager Nicola Towsend who had tried to calm him down and asked him to leave.
Bowser was eventually escorted out of the bar, whereupon staff locked the doors and windows to prevent him getting back in. He made at least three attempts to get back inside before returning to his glamping pod where he confronted Mr Jackson and followed him to the toilet block.
He was charged with two counts of attempting to murder Mr Jackson, two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, two counts of possessing a prohibited weapon, wounding Mr Jackson with intent to do him grievous bodily harm, two counts of assault by beating inside the bar and one count of assaulting Mr Lockwood causing actual bodily harm.
He admitted the three assaults and possessing prohibited weapons, but denied the attempted-murder charges, wounding with intent and the two counts of possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.
Following a trial earlier this month, a jury found him guilty of the two counts of possessing firearms with intent and wounding with intent.
At today’s sentence hearing, Bowser appeared on a video link from prison and remained stony-faced throughout proceedings.
Prosecutor Christine Egerton urged judge Howard Crowson to find that Bowser was a dangerous offender in the strict legal sense, which would entail an extended sentence, and outlined his record for violence and firearms possession.
Bowser’s record included GBH, carrying a machete, dangerous driving and driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
Defence barrister Alistair McDonald said the reason Bowser chose to holiday at the Tan Hill Inn was because it was “wholly away from the area where he feared attack”.
“He possessed the weapons to protect himself should certain circumstances arise,” added Mr McDonald.
“He feared (harm) to him and his family from the person he named to police. That intimidation had started four or five years before (the incident at Tan Hill) and was escalating in seriousness.”
He said the stress of this feud, along with the closure of Bowser’s former tanning business following the Covid pandemic, led to financial and other pressures which Bowser had been suffering at the time of the offences.
Mr McDonald claimed that the revolver wasn’t loaded during the first incident at the toilet block and pointed to evidence from firearms experts which appeared to corroborate this.
He said Bowser had no intention of trying to kill Mr Jackson and that his actions were “reckless”. Bowser himself said he was just trying to frighten him.
Judge Mr Crowson said it was “inconceivable”, given what Bowser had told police, that the “combatable arms” weren’t loaded as he travelled from Durham to a “remote and peaceful inn in the North York Moors”.
He said that given Bowser’s record for violence and weapons, he did consider him to be a dangerous offender in the eyes of the law and therefore an extended prison sentence would be passed.
He condemned Bowser for his “indiscriminate” violence at the inn and said it was obvious that Mr Jackson had posed no physical threat to the burly former businessman when he found him at the glamping pod.
The judge said it was clear from the evidence that Bowser had “quickly loaded the revolver and discharged it through the door” of the guest room.
He noted that Mr Jackson was still at risk of infection from the wound he suffered because the bullet was still lodged in his arm. The victim had been receiving ongoing therapy since the shooting.
Mr Crowson said he would give Bowser consecutive sentences for the wounding and carrying weapons with intent to endanger the lives of those unnamed people with whom he had the ongoing feud.
Bowser, of Worcester Place, Bishop Auckland, was jailed for 19 years and was told he would have to serve at least two-thirds of that sentence behind bars before becoming eligible for parole. He was given an extended four years on prison licence, resulting in a total 23-year jail sentence.