How Washington gunman John Dees changed his appearance and tried to escape arrest after shooting - and how police caught up with him

He fired a sawn-off shotgun at his former mate in a street during the middle of the day – but John Dees still thought he had a chance of getting away with it.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 9:39 pm

The 33-year-old trialled his target ahead of the attack, calling Darren March over to his car before firing the gun, leaving him with injuries which would change his life forever.

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John Dees.

Dees shaved his head and trimmed away his beard and tried – and failed – to rip the black vinyl covering from his silver VW Scirocco in the hope anyone looking for it would be fooled.

But he was soon in custody, giving investigators the task of building a picture of that day as Dees, previously of Wensleydale Avenue in Washington, repeatedly declined to talk, while his weapon was also recovered.

Detective Sergeant Steve Brown said: “He tried to disguise his car and change its colour and he tried to flee.

“He also tried to disguise himself, shaved his hair and beard off.

John Dees shaved his head and beard in a bid to disguise himself after shooting a former pal in Washington

“The firearm, which was of massive interest to us, he put that inside a property, but because of the team’s investigations, we were able to retrieve that and we were able to identify it was used in this incident.”

The officer added of Dees: “He’s somebody who we’ve know about for years, going back to 1997, so the police were aware of him for a long time, but nothing of this level.

“Then when it comes to interviewing somebody of such a serious offence, that’s a skill in itself, and we have specialist teams and managers who can advise, asking the right questions at the right time and making the most of information as we get it.

“He made no comment and refused to answer, which is his right, however, we were still putting questions to him and still processing lines of inquiry and then it’s a matter of chipping away.”

Detective Sergeant Steven Brown.

Police say with the weight of evidence against him overwhelming he pleased guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to attempted murder, possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life and criminal damage of a police cell.

While Dees now begins his sentence, his victim is still dealing with the ongoing trauma of the events of Thursday, October 10, last year.

“He’s alright, but he’s suffered emotionally, physically and psychologically and it’s going to him a lot of time to be able to recover,” said Det Sgt Brown.

“He has been brave throughout and recognises what a traumatic experience he has been through.”

Police thanked the community in Washington for its support as it investigated the shooting.

He said the victim had been pals with his attacker and had shared groups of friends, but they had a falling out earlier during that year, with their fall out escalating in the shocking gun attack.