A visitor tried to murder a fellow guest at the Tan Hill Inn by firing a revolver at his head and blasting four shots through the door of a bunk room where the man had sought refuge, a court heard today.
Richard Bowser, 46, followed Lee Jackson to a toilet block outside the pub following trouble inside the bar instigated by Bowser which forced staff to eject him, a jury at Teesside Crown Court was told.
Bowser took out an Uberti 1973 revolver and fired a shot at Mr Jackson’s head, but it didn’t discharge, 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 Mr Jackson 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.
Mr Jackson was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a wound to his arm.
Ms Egerton said the horrifying scenes unfolded on the evening of July 21 last year after the incident inside the bar in which Bowser assaulted bar manager Nicola Townsend and two guests.
Bowser and his wife, from Durham, had arrived at the pub famous for being Britain’s highest pub, earlier that day for a holiday.
Arriving in a Fiat 500 convertible, they had intended to stay in a glamping pod for an overnight stay behind the pub. But everything changed when heavily-built Bowser 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 general manager Ms Townsend asked him to leave, causing him to become even more aggressive.
Bowser, from Durham, 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 him 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 bullets 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 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.”
Ms Egerton said that Mr Jackson was “in shock”.
She said that throughout the incident, the pub remained in lockdown.
“Police were informed that the defendant was outside, that he had been trying to get back in the pub and then went back to the glamping pod,” she added.
Staff told customers to leave the bar area and head for the barn which was safer because it had no windows.
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 firearms – the revolver and a Belgian .410 shotgun.
They also found ammunition both inside the pod and on Bowser himself.
He was taken to Harrogate Police Station for questioning but was largely unresponsive.
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 Memorial Hospital by land ambulance for treatment to his bandaged arm wound, albeit doctors were unable to dislodge the bullet from his arm.
“He still has the bullet lodged in his right arm to this day,” said Ms Egerton.
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 but admitted two counts of assault by beating, namely against Ms Townsend and Mr Pearson, and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against chef Mr Lockwood.
Bowser also pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing prohibited weapons – the revolver and the shotgun.
He appeared for the first day of his trial today. It is expected to last between five and seven days.
Ms Egerton told the jury 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.”
She said that Bowser had also admitted that, during the incident at the bunk room, he 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 because there were four shots…and that shows you exactly what Mr Bowser was attempting to do.”
Pub manager Ms Townsend said Bowser was shouting and swearing at her when she told him to watch his language as it was offending other customers.
She said he aimed a volley of foul-mouthed abuse at her when she asked him to leave the bar following his failed attempt to buy drinks.
The trial continues.