A YOUNG man who robbed a family at gunpoint, pulling the trigger when the father tried to wrestle the shotgun from him, may end up spending the next 18 years behind bars.
Shaun Downes had pleaded not guilty to robbing the man in his own home, possessing a firearm at the time, and an earlier offence of assault with intent to rob.
But it took a jury at Warwick Crown Court less than an hour to find Downes (20) of Sewall Highway, Coventry, guilty of all three charges.
And following an adjournment for a report to be prepared on him, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told him: “I can see no end to the dangerousness you present.”
Downes was given an extended sentence of 18 years in jail followed by a five-year extended period on licence.
He will have to serve at least 12 years before the Parole Board will even consider his release, and may have to serve up to the full 18 years – after which he will be on licence for the rest of the term and for a further five years.
Prosecutor Jennifer Josephs said that on December 20 last year a 17-year-old accomplice knocked on the door of a house in Pool Road, Coundon, Coventry, claiming the white Audi S3 parked outside had been hit by another car.
When the owner, who had paid just over £40,000 for the Audi went out to investigate, he could see no sign of any damage, and turned to go back inside.
Downes, who had been hiding behind a bin at the side of the house, rushed him and knocked him to the ground, threatening to stab him if he did not hand over the keys to the Audi.
And when the man’s mother came to the door, Downes shouted to her: “Give us the keys or we’ll stab him.”
The man fought back, grabbing Downes by the hand, ‘so he would have one less hand to stab me with,’ he explained to the jury, and as Downes pulled away, a glove he was wearing came off.
As Downes and his accomplice fled, the man followed them, but they and two others ran back towards him, with one threatening his sister they would stab her if the keys were not handed over.
But the man got back inside the house and grabbed a weed killer which he sprayed at them before managing to shut the door.
Then on January 6 a couple and their dog were in the lounge of their home in Howat Road, Keresley, while their son was in his bedroom and their 10-year-old daughter was in the kitchen.
Suddenly two masked men, one of them holding a sawn-off shotgun, came into the kitchen and gestured for the girl to be quiet and ordered her to go into the living room with them.
She was led into the room where her father, who collects watches, was ordered to hand over the Audemars watch he had on – which he told the jury was in fact a £100 copy.
As he took the watch off, the dog jumped down from his lap – and Downes pointed the gun at its face, saying: “Get that f***ing dog away from me.”
Downes then ordered the father to go upstairs with him to get his other watches, while the second robber remained with the girl and her mother in the living room.
In a recorded interview played in court, the girl said: “Then we heard the gun go off upstairs. He [the second robber] ran from the room. I heard someone running down the stairs, the one with the gun, and dad went running after him.”
Her father had told the jury: “We went upstairs, leaving the other man in the lounge with my wife and daughter. He saw the watch box. He took it and put it in his jacket.”
The man said Downes then told him to take off his gold chain, which had cost £12,000, so he took it off and Downes took one hand off the shotgun to take it from him.
“When I dropped the chain in his hand I went for the gun and grabbed it at the front. I just didn’t want anything else to be taken from my home,” he explained.
“I saw the opportunity, and I went for it. I grabbed it with my right hand and lifted it over my head and grabbed it with both hands.
“He got his other hand back on the gun, and it went off. It was pointing just three inches away from my head.”
In the struggle that followed, they both stumbled down the stairs, and he managed to pull the fur from round the gunman’s hood before he ran out of the front door.
And Miss Josephs said DNA on the hood and on the glove from the earlier incident matched Downes, who had only been freed from a three-year sentence for burglary late last year.
Delroy Henry, defending, conceded: “Undoubtedly this is one of the most serious cases in the criminal calendar, and one for which a most significant custodial sentence must follow.”
But he argued that, given the length of time Downes would be spending in custody anyway, there was no need for an extended sentence to be imposed.
And he said: “I recognise the significant aggravating feature of going into someone’s home with a loaded firearm that was discharged, but it was not discharged deliberately.”
But Judge Lockhart disagreed, commenting: “A finger does not end up on a trigger without some form of intent.”
Sentencing Downes, the judge told him: “You went there in the company of others, you were masked, and you had found yourself in possession of a shotgun which was loaded.
“You forced [the girl] into the living room where her father and mother were. One can only imagine their terror when they saw you come into that room armed with that shotgun.
“You forced [the father] upstairs with that gun. He grabbed the barrel. I find it impossible to find it was an accidental pulling of the trigger. The live round narrowly missed his head and his face.
“This is offending of the most serious type. This was the use of a loaded firearm, and it was discharged in their home after a child had been moved through the house at gunpoint.
“It was very close to use with lethal effect. It is pure luck there was no death or serious injury. A man nearly lost his life. I can see no end to the dangerousness you present.”