‘Sheer terror as a man aimed gun at me’

A SCARBOROUGH greengrocer has told of the terrifying moment when a rifle with a red laser sight was aimed at his head.

Father-of-four Paul Harrison was working at his warehouse in Ramshill Road when 51-year-old Leslie Thomson threatened to shoot him before aiming the .22 air rifle, complete with a laser scope and silencer, out of a window at him.

Thomson was this week jailed for 18 months at York Crown Court after he admitted to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Recalling the day of the incident, September 15 last year, Mr Harrison, who used to run the fruit stall in Westborough and now owns the Little Fruit Shop in Bar Street, said: “We were working, emptying stock into the warehouse. He was shouting at us out of a window and I told him to behave himself.”

Thomson then said he was going to get his gun, although Mr Harrison dismissed the words as an empty threat.

However when he looked up at the window again he was blinded by the laser sight which Thomson had locked on to his face.

“I thought it was just a toy at first,” he said. “It was only when I saw the huge barrel that I thought ‘I’m in trouble here.’ I felt sheer terror. How do you react when someone points a gun at your face?

“I dived behind a wall and called the police.”

Officers, who rushed to the scene, scaled a fire escape and entered Thomson’s Ramshill Road flat.

He handed over the weapon, which he had stored under his mattress.

When officers examined the weapon they found it was not loaded but it was capable of firing.

Alex Menarie, prosecuting at Thomson’s sentencing hearing, said that after his arrest Thomson told police that he was a recovering alcoholic who had “fallen off the wagon”.

Thomson added that he bought the weapon for £500 from a neighbour and only intended to scare people with the gun.

David Dixon, who represented Thomson, said that his client had been concerned about fly-tipping in the Ramshill area, and this, coupled with the bottle of vodka he had had, resulted in his “utterly ridiculous and ludicrous behaviour”.

He said Thomson lived with ill health

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and a series of fits as a result of a lifetime of heavy drinking which was linked to events in his younger life.

Mr Dixon added that his client was “petrified” at the prospect of prison and could be at risk of self-harming.

However The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said that Mr Harrison must have been “extremely alarmed”.

He accepted that Thomson, who was said to live quite a solitary life in the flat he shared with his partner, did have personal problems but added that he had to balance these against the public interest.

Judge Ashurst then jailed Thomson for 18 months.

After learning of the sentence, Mr Harrison, who has been a greengrocer for 10 years, said he does not hold any grudges against Thomson.

“I don’t know him, but I hope he gets help while he is in prison,” he said. “Sometimes people who do things wrong are the victims of society or whatever else happened in their past.

“They said in court he has problems. I would rather he gets treatment instead of punishment.”