A man who brought terror to a Blackpool street when he blasted a sawn-off shotgun through his neighbour’s front door has been jailed for 10 years.
Mark Saunders was already a convicted killer, having served prison time for leaving his dad bound and gagged in a cupboard in Scotland, where he died.
I don’t like woman beaters
Saunders and his victim had only been neighbours, living across a landing from each other, for a short time before the terrifying incident, which sparked a four hour siege and saw armed police flood the area around a flat on Norbreck Road.
The dispute began with the defendant grabbing his victim around the neck, squeezing his windpipe after accusing him of being a woman beater.
He told him: “I don’t like woman beaters” and threatened to kill him.
Preston Crown Court heard the victim was in his flat with his former partner a short time later when Saunders blasted a double barrel sawn off shotgun at the front door, making a hole the size of a pool ball.
Amazingly, no one was hurt.
But it sparked a major stand off with an armed response unit before Saunders finally gave himself up.
The street, close to the junction with Queens Promenade, had to be sealed off as armed officers swarmed the area.
Saunders, 40, had pleaded guilty to offences of possessing a firearm and also ammunition with intent to endanger life, possession a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence - murder.
He also admitted making a threat to kill and common assault.
In 2004 he was given five years jail in Scotland for the culpable homicide of his father John.
Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said on the evening of September 18 last year Saunders and his neighbour had spoken when the victim went out for a cigarette. The defendant said: “You’ve hit a woman” referring to an alleged incident before Saunders moved in.
The defendant then grabbed him around the neck and punched him in the face.
Saunders, who had got into the flat, was shouting “I’m going to kill you, you...woman beater. I don’t like woman beaters”. He even sent a text message to his landlord saying: “If you don’t move (the victim) I’ll kill him. He battered his good lady”.
The neighbour was later in his flat, with his former partner, when banging and shouting was heard. They ignored it.
Saunders shouted: “Get the scumbag to the door. I’ve got a surprise for him. I’m gonna end it for him”.
Twenty minutes later the double barrel sawn off shotgun was discharged at the front door, making a noise described like a “supersonic boom”. It made a hole the size of a pool ball in the door.
Lengthy negotiations took place before the defendant gave himself up at 8am.
Saunders had downed half a litre of whisky in the day before.
He went on to tell police his mental health had not been good. He also mentioned his neighbour having talked of assaulting his former partner and Saunders had taken that to be bragging.
Chris Hudson, defending, said Saunders had been very affected by his upbringing where there was violence by his father. The defendant had moved to Blackpool for a fresh start. He had heard alleged rumours about his neighbour and decided to make the threats.
Having brooded and drunk a lot of whisky, he lost his self control, but came to his senses by the time he went down the corridor of the flats.
Judge Anthony Russell QC gave Saunders 10 years in prison, with five years extended licence to follow.
He told him: “This must have been a very terrifying event for those in the premises.
“You were not to know there was no-one behind the door.
“You have shown little remorse.”
The incident brought terror to the area, with one neighbour telling The Gazette: “I’ve never seen anything like it, there were police all around the property. It was scary.”
Police, including armed officers and police dog handlers, surrounded the front and back of the property and put a police cordon in place before evacuating surrounding flats. Neighbours were moved into the nearby Norbreck Hotel.
Today Det Con Mat Frith, of Blackpool CID, told The Gazette: “It was a serious offence that could have caused significant injury or death.
“This sentence reflects the seriousness of the incident.”
Landlord Oliver Hirst, owner of the block of flats where the incident happened, said: “Mark Saunders was a decent guy but he did something he shouldn’t have done.
“He reacted badly after having a drink but you can’t do what he did and not suffer the consequences.”