Wiltshire

Michael Chudley guilty of solicitor James Ward's murder

James Ward, solicitor, Devizes (Michael Chudley accused of his murder)
Image caption James Ward's family said "no verdict could ever bring him back"
The MGW Law offices in Devizes
Image caption He was shot at his MGW Law office in Devizes and died three weeks later
The sawn-off shotgun used in the shooting
Image caption Michael Chudley fired this sawn-off shotgun
Windows at MGW Law in St John’s Street were broken in the shooting
Image caption Windows at the firm on St John's Street were broken in the shooting
Kingfisher House – Chudley’s former address in Rowde
Image caption Chudley was arrested 30 minutes later at his former home in Rowde

A bankrupt businessman who shot a solicitor in his office at close range has been found guilty of murder.

Michael Chudley, 63, shot James Ward in the head with a sawn-off shotgun in Devizes, Wiltshire. He blamed Mr Ward for the loss of his £1m home and the break-up of his relationship.

Chudley, of no fixed address, denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He was found guilty by a jury at Salisbury Crown Court.

Following the verdict, Mr Ward's family said: "We, Jim's family, have always known that no verdict could ever bring him back.

"However, we are reassured by the judgement today, which shows that the justice system in this country works well."

Chudley claimed he had no memory of the incident during which he shot the 58-year-old father of three in the head.

Paranoid personality disorder

Image caption Michael Chudley will be sentenced on Tuesday

The court heard Mr Ward, from Westbury, Wiltshire, was at work when Chudley walked into his first-floor office and shot him shortly before 15:00 BST on 2 July last year.

He was arrested at his former home in the nearby village of Rowde 30 minutes later.

Mr Ward, who suffered "a devastating head injury", died almost three weeks later.

The jury was told Chudley was suffering from a paranoid personality disorder at the time of the shooting.

He had lost his home and business after a legal dispute over building work and had taken to sleeping in his car or in rented rooms.

Mr Ward, who worked at MGW Law in Devizes, had been acting on behalf of the man Chudley had tried to sue.

Earlier in the trial, Chudley had admitted carrying an offensive weapon with intent to commit an indictable offence, possessing the gun with intent to cause unlawful violence towards MGW Law receptionist Daphne Courtney and threatening to kill Mrs Courtney with it.

He will be sentenced on Tuesday.

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