Thursday 8 December 2016

Lone gunman targeted tourists

Hunters became the hunted during nightmare shooting trip to Scotland

Majella O'Sullivan, Leanna MacLarty, and Caitriona Murphy

Published 01/04/2011 | 05:00

A SHOOTING trip to Scotland turned into a nightmare for eight Irishmen when the hunters became the hunted of a lone gunman.

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Just back from giving evidence at a trial in Aberdeen Sheriff Court where they had to relive the ordeal, the men -- who are all members of gun clubs in Co Tipperary -- have not ruled out taking a civil action.

Michael Sutherland (38), of The New Farmhouse, Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, was found guilty at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Wednesday of culpably and recklessly firing a high-powered rifle towards the men on October 26, 2009.

Sutherland, a former RAF Nimrod pilot, admitted a separate charge of possessing more than 200 rifle rounds above what his firearms licence entitled him.

The men had been shooting on land at Frogmore Farm which was close to the boundary with Sutherland's organic farm. Peter Butler (83) from Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary, was one of the men who found himself dodging bullets on the annual hunting trip.

"I was terrified for my life when the bullets were hopping off the ground around us," Mr Butler told the Irish Independent.

"I could not tell how many there were but there must have been 12 or 13, it was like a John Wayne film. I was just hoping that one of them wasn't going to go through our guts."

Mr Butler's nephew, Seamus Butler (50), said one of the bullets passed between him and Jimmy Lambert (53) before hitting the bushes behind them.

"We had been shooting geese since 9.30am and we were in and out of the field collecting carcasses and the next thing the shots just started coming at us. We bent down as best we could and when the shooting stopped we just got out of there as fast as we could, leaving all our gear apart from the guns and ammunition behind us," he said. Mr Butler recalled how another member of their group, Owen Jackman from Golden, Co Tipperary, had packed dead geese around his body hoping they might absorb the impact of a stray bullet.

Murder

Mr Jackman told the court: "My memory, to the day I go to the grave, would be that I expected to see one of my mates rolling out of the hide with a bullet in him. I was extremely frightened."

Seamus Butler said they had been in the field for a while when they realised they were being watched by someone in a blue jeep who was looking at them through the scope of a hunting rifle.

"He was only about 200 metres away from us at one stage," added John Condon (58) from Clonmel, Co Tipperary. "We just had to stick it out until he emptied the magazine and when he went up to the house we fled. We were just happy that no one was killed."

Liam Burke (42), also from Ardfinnan, said he was just thankful to be alive.

"When it started we were just wondering when the next one was going to come and who would get hit. All of us thought we would be hit."

Sheriff Kenneth Stewart deferred sentencing until next month. Sutherland had been originally charged with attempted murder, but this charge was downgraded to culpable and reckless conduct.

Irish Independent

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