Soldier who shot dead his landlady cleared of murder because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress after serving in Afghanistan
Killed: Farm owner Judith Garnett was shot to death in the attic of her Leeds home by ex-soldier Aarron Wilkinson
The soldier who killed his landlady after returning from Afghanistan was cleared of murder yesterday after a jury decided he had been traumatised by the war.
Instead, Aaron Wilkinson, 24, was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
A court heard he blasted Judith Garnett, 52, at point-blank range with a shotgun when she ordered him to pack his bags and leave the house they shared.
He had become ‘obsessed’ with guns after his six months in Afghanistan, where he suffered a minor wound but ‘seemed disappointed at not having fired a shot’.
The court had been told he may have shot Mrs Garnett, who had become a second mother to him, simply to experience what it was like to kill someone.
The prosecution claimed Wilkinson was a cold-blooded murderer, but a jury at Bradford Crown Court decided he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Asperger’s syndrome, and was not in control of his actions.
Sentencing was adjourned for psychiatric reports to decide if Wilkinson remained a danger to the public. He was remanded in custody.
Mother-of-two Mrs Garnett ran a game
farm and Wilkinson worked for her and lived at her home in Woodlesford,
near Leeds. She had taken him in a decade earlier when he was homeless
after being thrown out by his mother, and treated him like a member of
War veteran Aaron Wilkinson said the events played out like a movie and how he 'wasn't in full control'
The court heard Wilkinson had been in the Territorial Army since he was a teenager but was a changed man when he returned from a tour of duty in May 2010.
He constantly talked about his time
in Afghanistan with the Welsh Regiment, wore combat clothing and held
a shotgun as if he was carrying an Army rifle.
He tried to join the regular Army to get back to the front line, but was rejected due to recruitment constraints.
He even carried a piece of shrapnel in a jar that had been pulled out of his thigh after a mortar attack.
His victim’s son, Andrew Garnett, 27, said: ‘After coming back from Afghanistan he seemed really into guns, big bangs and blowing stuff to bits.’
When Mrs Garnett ordered him to leave in January last year, he snapped and killed her with three blasts from a shotgun.
He then dialled 999 and told the operator: ‘I have done something absolutely terrible . . . I just had a moment of madness.’
A soldier in Afghanistan: Aaron Wilkinson was diagnosed with PTSD after returning from a tour with the Territorial Army (file picture)
Wilkinson could not explain why he
shot Mrs Garnett and said it was as if he was in a ‘trance . . . It
sort of just went black and white and hazy at times. It was like I just
turned into a mad man. I felt like somebody I’m not.’
Psychiatrists told the court his mental conditions meant Mrs Garnett’s order to move out was a ‘catastrophic’ rejection to him.
The court heard the combination of Asperger’s and PTSD left him unlikely to be able to exercise self-control.
The court was told Wilkinson had been badly affected by seeing three Afghan soldiers blown up by a Taliban bomb.
He also told a colleague he had been
disappointed that he had been unable to fire a single shot during a
ferocious eight-hour firefight.
Colleague Mark McCabe said Wilkinson often built a campfire on his own away from other troops. On one occasion he heard Wilkinson laughing and discovered he had skewered a cat with a red-hot poker.
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