RAF serviceman who shot fellow comrade in the stomach while showing off his 'party trick' is jailed for three years

  • Senior Aircraftman Liam Gadsby, 23, shot a colleague through the stomach
  • His party trick allowed him to pull trigger of gun without bullet discharging
  • But it backfired when he accidentally shot fellow serviceman Jay Johnson
  • The bullet went through Air Serviceman Johnson's body and out his back
  • Gadsby was yesterday jailed for three years and discharged from the RAF

Senior Aircraftman Liam Gadsby (pictured) had previously bragged to colleagues about his 'party trick' that allowed him to pull the trigger on a loaded pistol without the bullet being fired

Senior Aircraftman Liam Gadsby (pictured) had previously bragged to colleagues about his 'party trick' that allowed him to pull the trigger on a loaded pistol without the bullet being fired

An RAF airman has been jailed after he shot a friend through the stomach whilst demonstrating a 'party trick' with a high-powered weapon during a tour of Afghanistan.

Senior Aircraftman Liam Gadsby was in the back of a Mastiff armoured personnel carrier at Camp Bastion when he fired the Glock pistol.

The 23-year-old had previously bragged to shocked colleagues about a technique he had learned which allowed him to pull the trigger on a loaded pistol without the bullet being fired.

But the stunt went horribly wrong when he shot a bullet through the stomach of fellow serviceman Senior Aircraftman Jay Johnson.

Gadsby was jailed for three years and was dismissed from Her Majesty's service after being found guilty of malicious wounding by an RAF panel following two hours' deliberation at Colchester Military Court.

Judge Robert Hill said: 'In a service context it is fairly elementary to understand the reason you do not play around with firearms and point them at people.

'That, on its own, is an example of recklessness but in this case it is far more serious. There is plainly a military imperative to spell out in the clearest terms that servicemen who play around with firearms will be punished.

'We are of the view that the seriousness of this offence can only result in a custodial sentence.'

Gadsby - based at RAF Honnington in Suffolk - was sat in the back of the Mastiff when he volunteered to demonstrate his 'party trick' whilst pointing the pistol at 24-year-old SAC Johnson.

Just moments later, a single shot rang out, hitting Johnson in his stomach with the bullet passing through his body and out of his back.

Despite his horrific injuries, Johnson was initially reluctant to report the incident fearing Army colleagues would ridicule the RAF.

He believed the cock-up would make the RAF look like 'twats' because, in his own words, 'The Army would love to hear we shot one of our own lads.'

Gadsby denied a charge that he maliciously wounded Johnson in the incident shortly before 10pm on December 4, 2013.

The serviceman had previously stumbled across a way of pulling back the top slide of the Glock pistol a short distance without a round entering the chamber.

The trick, which he had successfully demonstrated to 'surprised and shocked' colleagues on previous occasions, engaged the trigger therefore allowing the pistol to be fired without a shot coming out.

Lieutenant Colonel Will Peters, prosecuting, told a court martial: 'The prosecution case is Senior Aircraftman Gadsby got out of the driver's seat where he was in the front of the vehicle and got into the back and his purpose in so doing was to discuss and ultimately demonstrate his party trick which was performed on his Glock pistol.

'The trick was performed with his loaded Glock pistol and involved him pulling back the cocked slide of a loaded weapon so that the trigger came forward but no round enters the chamber.'

He told the court Gadsby had declared 'do you want to see my party trick?'

Lt Col Peters said: 'Johnson then saw the defendant cock the pistol by pulling back the slide and the pistol was pointed at him.

'Johnson told him not to point the weapon at him, at which point the defendant laughed. Johnson told him not to pull the trigger, but he did, shooting Johnson in his abdomen.'

Lt Col Peters said Gadsby's actions went beyond mere negligent discharge.

'He must have been aware of the obvious dangers of what he was doing,' he added.

Senior Aircraftman Johnson told the court of the fateful moment he was shot.

He said: 'I was looking into my day sack and then I heard the Glock cock. I looked up and I saw he [Gadsby] was aiming it at my head. I asked him to stop pointing it. I told him I did not find it funny. I said stop messing around, stop pointing it at me.

Senior Aircraftman Jay Johnson (pictured) said he asked Gadsby to stop pointing the gun at him but was told to 'stop being a pussy'
Gadsby (pictured) denied a charge that he maliciously wounded Johnson in the incident shortly before 10pm on December 4, 2013

Senior Aircraftman Jay Johnson (left) said he asked Gadsby (right) to stop pointing the gun at him but was told to 'stop being a pussy'

'I also said "you don't know if there is anything in it", but he said "I have done it loads of times mate, stop being a pussy".

'I said to him, "mate can you stop it, I don't find it funny". I started getting panicky and angry. He then lowered his aim from my head onto my torso. At the time I just carried on saying "can you stop pointing at me?".

'He just laughed, he lowered his aim to my stomach and said "look, there is nothing in it". He then shot me through my stomach and out of my back.

'Once I had been shot, he dropped the pistol and I said "oh my God, you have shot me". He said "Oh my God, what have I done?" He then got dragged off round the corner and I never saw him again.'

The court heard how SAC Johnson was treated in hospital in Afghanistan before being transferred back to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and then on to Headley Court rehabilitation centre in Surrey.

He is still undergoing treatment for the injuries he suffered from the shot, has to wear a colostomy bag and has a 13-inch scar running from his chest down to his stomach.

He faces complex surgery in the future and has been warned his condition may leave him physically unable to remain in the RAF.

At first, he was not going to report the shooting for fear it would be amusing to their Army counterparts.

Gadsby was on his second tour of Afghanistan when the incident occurred and had no previous convictions or disciplinary matters against him.

Liam Gadsby stood trial at Colchester Military Court (pictured) after denying a charge that he had maliciously wounded Service Aircraftman Jay Johnson while showing off a 'party trick'

Liam Gadsby stood trial at Colchester Military Court (pictured) after denying a charge that he had maliciously wounded Service Aircraftman Jay Johnson while showing off a 'party trick'

Gadsby - described as a 'lovely guy' - had on an earlier occasion been told off by a senior officer as he was about to demonstrate his trick.

His family has a long tradition in the RAF with both his grandfather and great grandfather serving their country in the RAF.

Dingle Clark, mitigating, revealed that since the incident Gadsby has continued to serve at RAF Valley as part of its mountain rescue team.

He added: 'It is accepted that the whole incident has been traumatic for SAC Johnson. SAC Gadsby wishes to apologise to Johnson for the terrible mistake he made. There is nothing he would want to do more than rewind the clock back and undo what was done. He has had to live knowing he has caused these injuries to a fellow airman he worked alongside and liked.

'This is someone who has made a serious mistake with serious consequences. He accepts for an offence like this a custodial sentence is inevitable. I ask you give him a sentence that recognises his good character and allows him to remain in the RAF.'

Giving evidence, Gadsby admitted on a previous occasion he had carried out the 'trick' whilst pointing a Glock at his own head.

Mr Clark said: 'Do you remember doing that yourself?'

Gadsby admitted he 'vaguely' recalled the incident.

He denied aiming his gun at SAC Johnson, saying he had only pointed it towards the rear of the Mastiff personnel carrier.

He said: 'I never purposely directed my weapon towards anyone. That is going to affect them and worry them.

The incident occurred at Camp Bastion (pictured), Afghanistan, on December 4, 2013. File image used

'I was demonstrating the procedure that I had carried out previously - when I fired, the round came out of the chamber and hit SAC Johnson.'

Mr Dingle asked: 'Did you ever aim at SAC Johnson's head?

'I did not, no sir,' he replied.

'Did you think you were aiming at SAC Johnson's body or torso?'

Gadsby replied: 'No sir, the weapon was generally aiming towards the back of the wagon.'

Gadsby said before pulling the trigger, it did not appear that there was a round in the chamber.

In the moments after the shooting he was heard to say, 'I can't believe I have done this. What have I done?'

He admitted to the court he had been previously been spoken to by a senior officer who warned him not to carry out the trick but said it was just 'general chat' rather than a disciplinary talk.

Gadsby had previously admitted a lesser charge of negligence at an earlier hearing.

He was found guilty following a three-day hearing.

An RAF spokesman said: 'Firstly our thoughts remain with the injured RAF serviceman who remains under medical care.

'With regard to the court martial, the RAF takes weapons safety very seriously and can confirm that Senior Aircraftman (SAC) L D Gadsby has been sentenced to three years' imprisonment and discharge from the RAF.

'The RAF will now take the appropriate administrative action by initiating the discharge process.'