Former jockey opened fire on pedestrians after becoming upset while watching horse racing on television

PUBLISHED: 16:26 05 September 2019

James Brinkworth has been jailed for two and a half years. Picture: Devon and Cornwall Police

James Brinkworth has been jailed for two and a half years. Picture: Devon and Cornwall Police


A former jockey has been jailed for taking pot shots at passers-by out of his window with an air rifle after getting drunk while watching racing on television.

James Brinkworth used a telescopic sight on a potentially lethal air rifle to target four complete strangers in a 'senseless and random' series of attacks over six hours.

He used expanding pellets, and the most serious injury was to a second-year Exeter University student, who was hit just below his left eye and could have been blinded if the shot had been fractionally higher.

The student needed a minor operation at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to remove the pellet from his cheek.

Other victims were left with bruising, with one pellet penetrating three layers of clothing. Brinkworth fired at several other pedestrians, including children.

He was arrested after armed police sealed off the area around the Globe Inn pub in Clifton Road, Exeter, and a former soldier living above the pub pinpointed where the shots were coming from.

Brinkworth had been drinking all day while watching horse racing on the television and became angry and upset because he is a former jockey whose own career failed.

He saw some of the people he used to work with in the coverage of the Friday of the Cheltenham Festival and became morose.

Brinkworth, aged 29, who moved to a caravan at Clyst St George after the incident, admitted wounding the student, three counts of causing actual bodily harm to the other victims and criminal damage to a pub window. He was jailed for two and a half years by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

Judge Johnson said: "You engaged in extremely serious and frightening behaviour, using an air pistol which is described as having a lethal capacity and equipped with a telescopic sight.

"You repeatedly fired pellets at members of the public going about their lawful business. This happened over a period of hours when you were massively under the influence of drink.

"You repeatedly aimed at people, including children, in order to get a reaction from them. Mercifully, the injuries were not as serious as they could have been, although [the student] suffered a serious injury to his face and had to have the pellet removed in a minor operation.

"All of this would have been extremely frightening for those who were subjected to a random and senseless attack. This was firing time and time again, not just the four pellets which hit people, but many more times.

"It involved not just a weapon, but a dangerous weapon."

Lee Bremridge, prosecuting, said the first two victims were shot at around 4pm while walking past the Globe Inn.

They were both shot in the back, and one pellet went through three layers of clothing.

Other shots were heard but the street then went quiet until Brinkworth opened fire again just after 10pm, when former soldier Mark Clark looked out from a window above the pub and saw a hooded gunman with an air rifle and telescopic sights.

About 30 more shots were fired. A pedestrian was hit in the back and the Exeter University student was hit in the cheek as he left the pub.

Armed police arrested Brinkworth in his upstairs flat and found a tub of pellets next to the window and the gun hidden under his bed. The pellets were designed to expand on impact.

Emily Cook, defending, said Brinkworth accepts he behaved stupidly and wants to apologise to the victims. She said he suffers from ADHD and had a troubled childhood.

Miss Cook said Brinkworth suffers from a chest condition and had mixed medication with a large amount of alcohol on the day of the shooting while watching racing on television.

She said: "He was watching racing. It is something he is passionate about but he had conflicting emotions. He had been a promising jockey but his career came to an end.

"He saw some of the people he had trained with racing that day and got to thinking about what he could have had and what he had lost. It led to him feeling anger and frustration.

"He accepts he acted unacceptably and disgracefully but he had no intention of causing serious harm."

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