Soldier killed £10k dog and shot owner in knee taking potshots at rabbits

Ian Coulthard, 53, had been shooting at a friend’s rural Northumberland home with a .22 semi-automatic rifle when he failed to spot John Semmens and his gundog Scout walking along a path 170m away.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Coulthard, of Chopwell near Gateshead, had been aiming for targets before his friend, who has since died, took him to the front of the property as he was leaving and urged him to shoot at rabbits, which he was initially reluctant to do, ChronicleLive reports. 

At the same time Mr Semmens was walking at Isaac’s Tea Trail, in Sinderhope, near Allendale, at 3.30pm on January 30, 2021, when he heard three gunshots before he realised he had been shot in the knee and noticed Scout was lying dead in front of him.

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The court heard how Mr Semmens was taken to the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle where it was found the bullet had become lodged in his leg, but surgeons decided it would be safer to leave it there.

However, three months later he found himself unable to move the leg and following further surgery, he was told it was not possible to remove the bullet, which left him unable to run.

Sentencing Coulthard, judge Julie Clemitson said: “Such a weapon should be handled with respect and discipline, which you know having seen active service yourself.

“You went to shoot targets but when some rabbits appeared you accepted the invitation to pick up the rifle and take a shot at them.

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“You knew there was a track but you were under the mistaken impression the footpath was closed for the shooting season.”

Coulthard, who was decorated for his military service in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to wounding Mr Semmens along with criminal damage to Scout and was sentenced to 16 months suspended for 18 months.

Ellen Wright, defending, said on his behalf: “He feels terrible, he feels horrible and he is utterly wracked with guilt at the injury caused and the death of his dog.”

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