Man jailed for nearly 12 years for shooting Sunderland teenager in the head

Steven Thompson leaving Sunderland Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing
Steven Thompson leaving Sunderland Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing

A man has been jailed for nearly 12 years for condemning a teenage boy to a "living nightmare" after shooting him in the head.

Steven Thompson fired an adapted air rifle, which had a telescopic site, silencer and was adapted to fire pellets at twice the legal velocity, at the 15-year-old after becoming "irritated" by the noise of the bike as it passed his home last October.

Steven Thompson

Steven Thompson

Newcastle Crown Court heard the pellet penetrated the teen's skull and travelled ten centimetres into his brain.

He needed emergency surgery to save his life, lost a large part of his skull and still has pellet fragments inside his head.

The boy's life has been changed forever as a result of what happened.

Thompson, of Hewitt Avenue, Sunderland, who initially pretended to be a "good Samaritan" who wanted to help as the boy lay injured at the scene, admitted wounding with intent and having a firearm without a licence.

The air rifle "obsessed" 40-year-old was sentenced to 11 years and ten months behind bars after Newcastle Crown Court heard a heartbreaking statement from the his victim, who is now in a wheelchair.

It said: "On October 5 2016 I was shot in the head while riding on the back of my friend's moped. This was the day my life changed forever.

"I just want someone to listen to how this has effected my life and lives of my friends and family.

"Following the shooting, my life will never be the same again. I want Steven Thompson to know this. That is the main thing I wish to achieve. Physically and mentally my life has changed beyond recognition."

The victim said he was a "full of life teenager" before he was targeted and enjoyed, sports, adventure and had ambition to work in construction.

He said he is now left with just a long list of questions of what his life in future will be but is determined to try to fulfil his dreams.

The teen added in his statement: "I don't remember being shot or anything leading up to the incident.

"I remember waking up and intensive care and thinking I can't move. The reality that I couldn't move, couldn't speak property or lift my head up. I was disabled.

"I felt like my life had been taken away from me. I was a shell of my former self. I was in a living nightmare. At times I wanted to die.

The court heard the boy spent weeks being fed and receiving water through a tube, before gradually moving on to baby food, which he said was a "living hell".

He suffered "constant, horrendous pain" and needed to re-learn the most simple tasks.

The boy added: "I remember telling my mam 'I haven't got a head' and asking her 'have I got a head?' I was petrified to hear the answer.

"I felt like I had no head. The whole right side of my skull had to be removed, there was nothing there, and the left side felt fake."

The teen said he needed intensive input while in hospital for four and a half months and added: "I felt like an old person or a baby.

"I will be on medication and need a wheelchair for the rest of my life. At one point I asked the nurse to put me back in an induced coma."

The teen said he feels his attacker has shown "no remorse" for the devastation he has caused and added: "How can anyone do this to a child, leave them dying on the road.

"I want him to know I nearly died. He won't be bothered about that. He is only concerned about himself. "

The boy said despite his current plight, he is determined to make his life as full and positive as he possibly can.

He added: "I want to get back to being my old self."

The boy's mother described in her statement the horror of fearing her child was going to die and how she say by his bedside praying, singing and talking to him while willing him to pull through.

She said: "I could not believe a man could point a gun at my son's head and pull the trigger."

A CCTV system at Thompson's own home showed what happened outside his home that night.

Thompson has been doing target practice with the adapted air rifle at the back of the house but moved to the front when the heard the bike go past for the second time.

He then fired one shot and returned, briefly, back to practising targets at the back.

Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court: "Apparently, it would seem, he was irritated by the noise of the moped."

After the shooting, Thompson took the gun to a pal's home then went back to the scene, where he claimed to have heard something "whizzing by his head" and wanting to help.

He was arrested and a tape recording made as he was transported in a police van confirmed it was he who had taken the shot.

Judge Robert Adams told Thompson: "It appears that the noise of the moped caused you to react in the way you did.

"The pellet appears to have entered the right side of his skull, penetrated through his brain, a 10 cm track can be traced in his brain, causing high pressure and blood loss.

"A conversation recorded in the van made it blatantly clear you had taken a shot at him.

"You used an illegally overpowered weapon. He was a 15-year-old victim. You shot him in a public street."

Thompson had been convicted of possessing an air weapon in public after he shot a wild bird in July last year.

He was convicted of possessing an air rifle in public again in August 2016.

Joe Hedworth, defending, said Thompson accepts full responsibility for what he did but added: "He certainly never intended to cause the dreadful injuries which were sustained."

Mr Hedworth said what happened was a "split second moment of madness" and added;: "Unfortunately, after weeks of children tearing up and down Hewitt Avenue, he became increasingly frustratated.

"The complainant and his friend drove past twice in a mater of seconds. Unfortunately he reached the end of his tether and fired the air rifle."

Detective Inspector Ed Small who led the investigation said: "This has truly been an awful incident and Thompson's actions have left this poor young man with severe life-changing injuries. He has been extremely brave throughout this investigation and he really is trying to get his life back. No 15 year-old should have their freedom or dignity taken away from them in this way.

"It gives a stark warning the dangers of using any sort of air weapon irresponsibly and that devastating injuries they can cause."