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Jail for suicidal teenager who fired gun

PUBLISHED: 00:38 29 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:03 03 March 2010

WORDS of thanks to the emergency services and health staff, were today released by the family of girl who was shot in a 'complete freak accident' by her suicidal boyfriend.

WORDS of thanks to the emergency services and health staff, were today released by the family of girl who was shot in a 'complete freak accident' by her suicidal boyfriend.

The incident occurred after Alexander Powell's father tried to wrestle a loaded pistol from him, a court heard.

Gun club member Powell and his father Tony watched in horror as the US replica pistol fell to the floor and fired a bullet at Michelle Coulson.

She was shot in the right shoulder and the bullet severed her spinal cord.

Wheelchair-bound Miss Coulson, 19,watched at Ipswich Crown Court yesterdayas her ex-boyfriend was jailed for 18 months for his part in the accident.

Powell, 22, of Stoney Road, Grundisburgh, admitted affray and possessing the gun without a firearms certificate.

Judge Nicholas Beddard told him: "I accept you had no wish or intention to hurt anyone except yourself, but this reckless and self-indulgent behaviour had a profound effect on a life other than your own."

Judge Beddard jailed Powell for 18 months and told him he must serve half the jail term, he has been in custody for the past five months.

After the case was heard yesterday, Michelle and her family said: "Michelle, her parents and brother would like to thank everyone for their support following this tragic course of events. In particular, the paramedics and doctor who were at the scene, A&E, intensive care and paramedic support teams at Ipswich Hospital, spinal staff at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, work colleagues and employers, friends and family members."

Simon Spence, prosecuting, said Powell locked himself in his house after a row with Miss Coulson on September 12 last year. He picked up the gun, which his father had left out after cleaning it and loaded it with six bullets.

Miss Coulson, was worried about her boyfriend and phoned his father for help.

The court heard Mr Powell heard a gunshot after trying to telephone his son. He climbed a ladder to a landing window and saw his son sitting on his bedroom floor, holding the gun and threatening: "The next one's for me".

Powell fired three shots at the walls before his mother, Carol Cooper, arrived at the house and climbed through the landing window with Miss Coulson.

Mrs Cooper let her ex-husband into the house and Mr Powell confronted his son on the staircase. They struggled on the stairs as Mr Powell tried to disarm his son and the gun dropped through the banister and onto the floor, said Mr Spence.

The pistol discharged as it landed and Miss Coulson slumped to the floor as the stray bullet hit her, he added.

Michael Birnbaum QC, said Powell originally blamed his father for the accident but has since taken the "moral responsibility" for it.

"If he hadn't barricaded himself in the house with a loaded gun then Michelle would never have been injured, he wishes he was in the wheelchair, not his ex-girlfriend."

He said Powell had a troubled upbringing and was prone to fits of anger and self-harm. Powell took an overdose of drugs last year and has continued to cut and harm himself, including a bid to hang himself with a shoelace in his prison cell.

Mr Birnbaum said Mr Powell thought he was doing the right thing in overpowering his son and letting the weapon drop and described the shooting as "a complete freak accident".

The court heard the pistol, had an insecure mechanism and would discharge if dropped from a height of 5ft or more.

Gun club member Mr Powell, had acted carelessly in leaving the weapon out and had been stripped of his firearms certificate, Mr Birnbaum added.

Michelle from Ipswich, is a qualified lifeguard who was training to be a paramedic. She is waiting to be discharged from the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, Middlesex, after nine months of treatment.

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