Sunderland killer to be released after serving just seven years for Salem Street shootings

Salem Street, Sunderlandm after the shootings in July 2004

Salem Street, Sunderlandm after the shootings in July 2004

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KILLER Robert Fox is set to be released from prison.

Despite being jailed for 15 years for his role in killing pensioner Fred Fowler during the Salem Street shootings, Fox is set to be freed this year after serving just seven years.

Robert Fox

Robert Fox

Today, Patricia Anderson, the daughter of Mr Fowler said: “I would want him to stay in there for the rest of his life.

“I was expecting he would be released soon, but I have not received a letter about it.”

Information about Fox’s imminent release came at Newcastle Crown Court this week as his son, Lewis Fox, was sentenced to 41 weeks in jail after admitting possessing cannabis with intent and being concerned in the supply of a class B drug.

Christopher Rose, defending Fox Jnr, said: “He had a troubled upbringing to the extent his father, when he was 13, was sentenced to a lengthy period of imprisonment and is not due to be released until later on this year.”

Fox was jailed for his role in the notorious Hendon shootings in July 2004 where Mr Fowler, 72, was killed and Michael Nixon, then just 19, left seriously injured.

Mr Fowler had been enjoying a night out at the Tap and Barrel pub in Salem Street when Fox, then 38, and hitman Robert Chapman charged into the pub, killing the pensioner and leaving Mr Nixon for dead.

Fox was arrested and remanded in custody until his trial in 2006.

He was found guilty of manslaughter, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent and possession of a firearm without a certificate.

Chapman, then 36, was sentenced to life for murder and told he would not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 27 years behind bars.

Mrs Anderson said: “I believe Fox should have got the same sentence as Chapman.”

In January 2007, Fox wrote to the Echo claiming he was “not responsible for the killing” of Mr Fowler.

Writing from HM Prison Long Lartin, Worcestershire, he said: “I have never made any claims to have led a blameless life and am, in fact, the first to admit that I’m no angel.

“I do know, however, that I was not at all responsible for the killing of Mr Fowler or for the shooting of Michael Nixon.”

Fox sent the Echo results of a lie-detector test which he claims reveal he is “telling the truth”.

This week, Newcastle Crown Court heard that Fox’s son Lewis had told police “I’m not dealing drugs, seriously. Get a Polygraph test, I will show you.”

In 2009, Mr Nixon, who sustained head injuries in the shooting, and relatives of Mr Fowler received a letter from the National Probation Service saying Fox wanted to apologise for his actions.

A further NPS letter informed the families that Fox had been downgraded to a category D prison, meaning he could be given day release, allowing him to spend weekends in the community.

Killers donned Hallowe’en masks before pub shooting

ON Sunday, July 18, 2004, a black Ford Focus pulled up outside the Tap and Barrel pub in Hendon, Sunderland.

Fox joined Robert Chapman by pulling on Hallowe’en masks and stepping into the pub in Salem Street.

Armed with a shotgun, Fox fired once through the pub window, missing all the 31 customers inside.

The masked pair then walked through the front door.

As customers dived for cover, Fox swung the gun around, pointing it at the terrified drinkers.

Chapman held his handgun at head height and fired off five shots, aiming at the bar.

Fred Fowler, sitting on his stool, was hit by two of the rounds.

Michael Nixon, standing beside him, was hit once in the head.

William Tobin, 48, was jailed for two years for his role in the shootings after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit affray and assisting offenders.

Lee Hay, 20, was sentenced to 18 months, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit affray.