Norfolk couple were shot after dog row

A Norfolk man shot his neighbours at close range after a bitter two-year feud over their choice of dog, prosecutors said yesterday.

Norwich Crown Court heard that builder Kevin Barrett, 57, and David and Susan Venn, both retired and in their sixties, had lived next door to each other since 2005 in High Street, Nordelph, near Downham Market. During that time Barrett and his wife Janice became close friends with the Venns.

Their relationship began to deteriorate in 2008 when Mr and Mrs Venn, decided to buy a rottweiler-mastiff cross called Milly from a rescue centre to keep their chesapeake bay retriever, George, company.

Prosecutor Graham Parkins told jurors that the Barretts, who had a Yorkshire terrier, had opposed their decision and Mr Barrett embarked on a campaign against the couple.

This came to a head on the morning of June 23 last year when the Venns arrived home from a trip to Downham Market. It is alleged that Barrett smashed the windscreen of their car before firing a single barrel shotgun in Mr Venn's face then reloaded and shot Mrs Venn in the back.

Giving evidence, Mr Venn said: 'He told me 'you've ruined my life, made my wife ill, I've giving you everything'. He had wild, glazed eyes. I thought I was going to die.'

Mr Venn managed to block the bullet with his arm but as he lay bleeding on the ground, he saw Barrett 'fiddling with the gun'.

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He broke down in tears as he recalled: 'I could only assume he was reloading. Then I saw blood appear on my wife's back. I thought she was dead.

'My only chance of survival was to rush him before he could reload. Next thing I knew, the gun was in my hands and he was attacking me with the spade.

'He told me 'I've got a �12,000 contract out on you and your wife. You'll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life'.'

Mrs Venn escaped to a nearby house and raised the alarm. After the incident, Barrett sat outside his house drinking a glass of red wine, Mr Parkins said.

Mr Parkins outlined the mounting tension in the years leading up to the attack.

Mr and Mrs Venn had consulted the Barretts before buying Milly. Barrett had told them they should not get a 'killer dog'.

Five days after the dog arrived, Barrett is alleged to have smashed a chiminea, which the couple's jointly owned, with a hammer.

On another occasion Mrs Venn noticed Barrett had thrown spicy sausage over the fence. When she threw it back, he told her: 'You can have a few more, I'll up the dose.'

Barrett also purchased an air horn which he would sound when the dogs barked, Mr Parkins said.

The Venns tried to take steps to appease the situation, including building a bigger fence to reassure their neighbours.

They kept a written record of Barrett's behaviour as they became increasingly concerned. When Mr Venn went away for two months on a narrow boating trip, they contacted Norfolk police to alert them to potential threat to his wife.

Barrett moved out of his house for a ten-month period and told the Venns he would let the property to 'the most horrible people you can find in Wisbech'. When the tenants moved in there were no problems, Mr Venn said. Problems started again when the Barretts returned.

William Carter, on behalf of Barrett, said Mrs Barrett 'was petrified' of the dog. He asked Mrs Venn if the couple had considered finding the dog a new home. She said: 'We couldn't have done that. We would have known that she probably wouldn't have been re-homed.'

Mr Venn suffered injuries to his hand and face while Mrs Venn was injured to her torso and underarm.

Barrett denies two counts of attempted murder, one of wounding with intent in relation to Mrs Venn and one of possession of a firearm. He has pleaded guilty to wounding with intent in relation to Mr Venn.

The trial is expected to last about one week.

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