A gunman who blasted a policewoman in the neck with a sawn-off shotgun has been found guilty of attempted murder.
James Leslie was convicted by a jury of the attempted murder of PC Suzanne Hudson – born and brought up in Nelson – by blasting her with the weapon at his flat in Leeds.
The jury at Leeds Crown Court also found him guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life after a two-week trial.
Mr Justice Lindblom adjourned the case so Leslie can undergo a psychiatric assessment. He is likely to be sentenced on October 2nd.
The court heard Leslie had also admitted an offence of arson committed two days after the shooting when he set fire to his prison cell. He has also admitted assaulting the prison officer who went to extinguish the blaze.
The attempted murder trial heard PC Hudson lay “coughing and gurgling” in the street after being shot by Leslie when she went to his home in Leeds to investigate a complaint of criminal damage.
After the shooting, he got on his bike and rode away laughing. Leslie came out of his flat after the shooting and said to PC Hudson and her colleague: “Do you want some more?”
PC Hudson (33) underwent life-saving surgery after suffering injuries to the arteries in her neck. Lead shot penetrated her face and neck and her hand was left a “bloody and tangled mess”.
PC Hudson was hurt when she went to Leslie’s flat in the early hours of December with colleague PC Richard Whiteley to investigate a complaint that Leslie had thrown an empty bottle through the window of a neighbouring property.
PC Hudson went to the top of the stairs which led to the back of Leslie’s flat and knocked on the door.
Leslie fired the weapon through the door from about a foot away.
PC Hudson gave evidence at the trial in which she described the ordeal as like being in a “war movie”.
Leslie claimed he had found the shotgun and ammunition in a cupboard under the stairs. He said he did not know the weapon was loaded and did not mean for it to go off.
Initially PC Hudson, who was on only her sixth frontline shift, had not realised she had been shot.
She told the court: “It was only when PC Whiteley was on the police radio telling the control room what happened that he used words like ‘shots fired, officer down’ at which point I heard that and thought I must have been shot.
“That was the first point I had some sort of understanding of what had happened.”
She looked at her palm and saw how badly she had been hurt. “My fingers were splayed, my middle finger was at a 90-degree angle and there were pools of blood through my hand,” she said.
She also found she was struggling to breathe, and realised her neck or throat had also been damaged.
“I felt like I was fading out,” she said. “I couldn’t move properly. I don’t believe I lost consciousness but I was very disorientated. It happened so quickly.
She was taken to Leeds General Infirmary where 80 pellets were removed from her hand. Her cartoid artery and jugular vein had to be repaired by a surgeon.
Colleagues launched a manhunt for Leslie, a schizophrenic, and he was arrested later at a sandwich shop.
PC Hudson showed the extent of her injuries to the jury, showing how her hand had been left disfigured and removing her tie and loosening the collar of her uniform to show where she was hit in the neck below her right ear.
Leslie had admitted possessing a prohibited weapon and causing criminal damage, but denied trying to murder PC Hudson and an alternative charge of causing her grievous bodily harm with intent.
He also denied possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life but was convicted of that offence as well as attempted murder.
Giving evidence, Leslie repeatedly denied he had any reason to shoot the officer and said he did not mean to discharge the weapon.
He said: “I’m not a nut job who’s just going to shoot down police for no reason”.
He said he had not taken his medication that day and did not know it was police at the door, and he brandished the weapon without meaning to discharge it to scare off whoever had knocked at his door.