United Kingdom

Terrifying moment gunman, 37, blasts his unsuspecting rival with a rifle in bid to end bitter feud

A gunman was caught on camera as he drew his rifle and shot down a rival in a bid to end a bitter feud.

Stephen Neasham, 37, has been jailed for 20 years after being convicted of the attempted murder of his 26-year-old victim, Ricky Copping, on March 21.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Neasham had arranged to meet the young father in a back lane in Birtley, Gateshead, to sort out an ongoing dispute.

But he turned up with a rifle and instead of talking out their issues, he gunned down unsuspecting Mr Copping.

Accomplice Eric Smith, 65, waited for him in a white van before acting as a getaway driver to transport Neasham away from the scene.

Stephen Neasham, 37, has been jailed for 20 years after being convicted of the attempted murder of his 26-year-old victim, Ricky Copping, on March 21. Accomplice Eric Smith (right), 65, waited for him in a white van before acting as a getaway driver to transport Neasham away from the scene

The young father who he shot was rushed into hospital by a group of friends he was with before undergoing life-saving surgery.

Neasham was later arrested by police and charged with attempted murder but he denied the offence and the case went to trial.

Both he and Smith were convicted of plotting to kill Mr Copping and they have today been jailed for a total of 37 years.

Following the case, the investigating officer at Northumbria Police condemned the pair's actions and said it was 'millimetres' from being murder.

Detective Inspector Joanne Brooks, of the Force's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: 'This was a calculated, planned shooting and Stephen Neasham only had one thought in his mind.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Neasham had arranged to meet the young father in a back lane in Birtley, Gateshead, to sort out an ongoing dispute

'He wanted to end his victim's life at any costs and did not hesitate to pull the trigger when he turned up at that back lane that night.

'The bullet was millimetres from severing an artery and killing his victim and it is more by luck than judgement that he is not facing life behind bars.

'I welcome the significant custodial sentence handed down by the judge today as it shows how seriously the justice system take offences involving firearms.

'Eric Smith will also spend his twilight years behind bars because he played a crucial role in facilitating this mindless and cowardly shooting.

'I want to take the opportunity to thank the victim for coming forward and giving evidence in court as his testimony has been crucial to securing justice.

But he turned up with a rifle and instead of talking out their issues, he gunned down unsuspecting Mr Copping

'This sentence should reassure the public that we will not tolerate this kind of reckless behaviour in our communities and we will do all we can to put offenders before the courts.'

During the trial, Mr Copping told the court that he had attended the meet 'alone and unarmed' on March 21 this year with the intention of sorting things out 'man to man'.

But jurors heard how Neasham instead leapt out the van and said 'it ends tonight' before shooting Mr Copping in the pelvis area.

CCTV of the moment he and Smith arrived at the scene, and the moment he pulled the trigger, was played to the jury during the trial.

At court prosecutors said the violent thug had been 'fanning the flames' of what was a simmering dispute and was intent on bringing it to an end.

Neasham and Smith, both of Bewicke Main Caravan Park, Lamesley, Gateshead, were both convicted of attempted murder on September 25 and remanded into custody.

Neasham was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. Smith was handed a 17 year custodial sentence.

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