A Lincolnshire gamekeeper has been sentenced to 17 years in jail after admitting attempted murder and possessing a gun in a public place, proving that shotguns and love don’t mix.
Andrew Dixon, 46 and an ex Grenadier Guard, tried to kill his friend Neil Willett with a double-barrelled shotgun because he was dating Mr Dixon’s estranged wife. Mr Willett was shot in the face on June 21st 2008.
Mr Dixon fled the scene but was caught several miles away by armed police officers.
Mr Willett is still unable to eat, is fed through a stomach tube and he requires continuing surgery on his cheek, jaw and nose. Quite a price to pay for dating a friends wife.
Mr Dixon’s defence team stated that he was deeply remorseful and suffering from depression at the time of the shooting and his employer told the court “He is first-class. He was just a very nice person and very well respected. Everybody liked him.”
This is a rare incident for the countryside, with most shotgun owning gamekeepers and farmers being completely responsible but it does show what can happen when you add access to live ammunition and emotional entanglement.
Anyone can be driven to extreme actions if they become emotionally unstable but I do wonder what the solution is, you can’t legislate against extra marital affairs. We have very strict gun controls in the UK and yet incidents like these do still occur.
The requirement for regular medical or mental assessments will do little, as this case shows it takes just one incident to turn a normal family man into a jailed attempted murderer but could this incident have been stopped if Mr Dixon’s depression had been spotted earlier?
Depression is a growing problem with farmers and farm workers in Britain, the isolation of their work often a contributing factor. We see more rural marriages breaking down and a problem dating in the countryside now rural social life is all but lost.
These days dating in the farming community is getting more difficult and more farmers in their 20’s and 30’s are working 14 hour days with little or no social life.
As dramatic as it sounds we really do need some initiatives to bring back rural social life. Working alone, often at night as gamekeepers do, doesn’t offer an outlet to relax, share your thoughts and relieve your frustrations.
I also see more and more farmers and gamekeepers drinking heavily, adding to depression. I would love to see something like the HSE’s Come Home Safe campaign implemented to educate the rural community about the depressive nature of heavy drinking.