Farmer cleared of attempting to murder metal thief he fired shotgun at hits out at force who have refused to hand back his guns

By Staff 0

  • Bill Edwards shot at thief David Taylor as he tried to flee the scene in a van 
  • The attempted murder case against Mr Edwards was dropped but police refuse to give back his guns, six months later
  • Police say they are reviewing his suitability to hold a firearms certificate
  • Mr Edwards says he is struggling to get work because the guns are the tools of his trade

By Alex Ward

PUBLISHED: 09:26 EST, 20 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:03 EST, 20 May 2013

A farmer, who shot at a metal thief as he attempted to get away in a van, has hit out at police after they refuse to hand back his guns.

Bill Edwards, 21, says he has struggled to find work six months despite being cleared of attempted murder because his guns are the tools of his trade.

The man from Scalby, Scarborough claims the police have acted illegally by keeping his property.

Claims police acted illegally: Farmer Bill Edwards (right) is struggling to find work after police confiscated his weapons because he shot at metal thief David Taylor (left) as he tried to flee the scene in a van loaded with stolen metal

He was arrested last summer on suspicion of attempting to murder scrap metal thief David Taylor after he shot at Taylor’s van, loaded with stolen metal from remote farmland at Whin Covert, Riggs Head near Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

Mr Edwards’ four shotguns and two rifles - worth at least £3,000 - were all confiscated when he was arrested last August.

When he was finally released from police bail on December 20, he was given a letter from North Yorkshire Police stating they were going to review his suitability to hold a firearms certificate.

He always maintained he only turned his shotgun on the van because he feared for the life of his mother Louisa Smith, 50, as Taylor sped towards her while he fled the scene.

Taylor claimed that he was simply trying to getaway because Mr Edwards was shooting at him. He was later caught by police in a nearby village after a high speed chase.

Mr Edwards and his mother caught Taylor and an accomplice loading stolen metal cables into the back of his Ford Transit after spotting that outbuildings had been tampered with. The thieves jumped into the van and drove it towards the pair as they desperately dialled 999 for help.

Despite being cleared of attempted murder of thief David Taylor, Mr Edwards is still without his four shotguns and two rifles as police review his suitability to hold a firearms certificate

Tools of his trade: Despite being cleared of attempted murder of thief David Taylor, Mr Edwards is still without his four shotguns and two rifles as police review his suitability to hold a firearms certificate

Mr Edwards fired his shotgun, which was loaded with lightweight rabbit shot, several times, hitting the van’s windscreen and bodywork. No one was hurt. Police eventually caught Taylor when Mr Edwards gave chase and gave a running commentary on his mobile phone. But the crook was only charged with metal theft.

The 39-year-old from Scarborough escaped with just a £100 fine for theft after claiming he had been ‘traumatised’ by Mr Edwards shooting at him.

The police have held Mr Edwards’ guns ever since the incident.

Mr Edwards and mother Ms Smith (pictured) caught Taylor and an accomplice loading stolen metal cables into a van

Caught red handed: Mr Edwards and mother Ms Smith (pictured) caught Taylor and an accomplice loading stolen metal cables into a van

His father Gary, 67, said: ‘It's ironic because when this first happened he was a local hero. The farmers who employ him were queuing up to offer him work.

‘But the police have his guns and his firearms certificate and it seems legally they can take as long as they like to reach a decision.

‘They are still treating him like a criminal for defending his own property and his mother.

‘Bill does not have any work and feels very badly let down by the police.’

Mr Edwards added: ‘They have also got my air rifle which doesn't even require a certificate to possess.

‘They are the tools I need and not having them is costing thousands as my crop is being eaten by pests and I could not have lambs this year without controlling vermin. 

‘When I work for other farmers they also require me to control pests. Not being able to do so prevents me getting work and if I do it is low pay. 

‘Clay shooting is, was also my main hobby and social activity.’

He argues that once his firearms were taken off him, the police no longer had any legal right to retain them. Legally, Mr Edwards could buy guns and ammunition because his certificate has not yet been revoked.

However, he would need to present his firearms certificate - which the police have also retained.

Mr Edwards added: ‘They are breaking the law. I am left very disappointed with the police as they have illegally held my property since August.

‘Since no further action was taken in December and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] made a very positive statement regarding my case, the police still have not communicated their decision on whether I am still fit to hold the firearms I need.’

Mr Edwards maintains that he only shot at Taylor because he feared the thief would hit his mother as he fled the scene. Taylor claims he was simply trying to flee the scene as Mr Edwards shot at him

Feared for mum's life: Mr Edwards maintains that he only shot at Taylor because he feared the thief would hit his mother as he fled the scene. Taylor claims he was simply trying to flee the scene as Mr Edwards shot at him and has been left 'traumatised'

The national representative body for shooting sports, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, supports Mr Edwards’ cause.

Senior Firearms Officer Matt Perring said: ‘A gun is absolutely essential to a farmer.

‘There is nothing like having your own gun to control the land.

‘Otherwise the land owner can ask anyone else with a shotgun certificate to do the job.’

He said employers needed farm workers who were trusted to carry guns to stop pests and vermin attacking crops.

Mr Perring said: ‘Otherwise it's like asking someone to put up a fence with a broken arm.’

Mr Edwards said his family has lost thousands of pounds through theft and damage caused in a number of raids on their land.

North Yorkshire Police Professional Standards are still looking into a complaint from the family into how the whole case was handled. 

A police spokesman said: ‘The investigation into Mr Edwards' complaint is still on going and so we are not yet in a position to comment.’

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