Fenland couple shot by neighbour relive ordeal as gunman given 18-year sentence for attempted murder

A FENLAND couple shot by their neighbour in a row over their dog last night said “we’ve got our lives back” after he was given an 18-year jail sentence for attempted murder.

A jury at Norwich Crown Court took nine hours to convict builder Kevin Barrett, 57, on two counts of attempted murder and one of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Barrett was sentenced this afternoon by judge Peter Jacobs to 18 years in jail. The judge said it was “sad mixture of personal tragedy” for everyone involved.

“The lives of your wife and yourself are now in complete ruins. It is highly unlikely that the Venns lives will be the same either. Notwithstanding your convictions for these grave offences there are absolutely no winners in this case. Everybody is a loser.”

Retired fireman David Venn, 63, and his wife Susan, 61, were shot outside their home in High Street, Nordelph, near Outwell, in June last year.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Venn said: “When he fired that gun in my face, I thought I’d had it.

“I managed to deflect the bullet with my hand and when I looked up he was reloading. I saw blood appear on my wife’s back and I thought I’d lost her for good.

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We’ve been to hell and back and having to relive our ordeal in court has been very hard. But we feel we’ve been given a second chance at life and we’re not going to waste it.”

Mr Barrett and his wife Janise had lived next door to Mr and Mrs Venn since 2005 and the couples quickly became close friends.

Their relationship began to deteriorate in 2008 when the Venns decided to buy a rottweiler-mastiff cross called Milly from a rescue centre to keep their Chesapeake Bay retriever, George, company.

Barrett made his feelings about the “killer” dog well known. Five days after the dog arrived, he smashed a chiminea, which the couples jointly owned, with a hammer.

He also dismantled a landing stage he and Mr Venn had constructed together on the river opposite their homes. He threw spicy sausage over the fence and when Mrs Venn 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.

This came to a head on the morning of June 23 last year when the Venns arrived home from a trip to Downham Market. Barrett smashed the windscreen of their car with a spade before firing a single-barrelled shotgun in Mr Venn’s face. He then reloaded and shot Mrs Venn in the back.

Barrett told the court his wife had a deep-seated fear of large dogs and the Venns’ decision had destroyed their lives and forced them from their home.

Outside court, Mr Venn said Barrett had exaggerated this story: “Mr Barrett was a very macho and controlling man who liked to get his own way.

“We did everything we could to appease him, including building a fence to keep the dogs away from them. I believe that the real issue was that we had disobeyed him and he didn’t like that.

“Even when we were friends I knew he had a temper and there were a number of times when he had confronted people in the neighbourhood in an aggressive way.

“A lot of things were said about us in court and this verdict vindicates our belief that we were in the right. We bent over backwards for him and nothing we did justified his behaviour.

“It is a huge relief to know he will be behind bars for a long time. But he is an unpredictable man and my fear is that he will come after us again when he gets out.”

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 face and hand. Part of his finger was amputated. Mrs Venn was injured to her torso and underarm.

Barrett built both of the houses, one for his family and another to sell. The Venns bought the property from him when they retired and moved to Norfolk from Essex.

Mr Venn planned to moor his narrow boat outside and travel the country’s waterways while Mrs Venn hoped to concentrate on arts and crafts.

Mr Venn said: “The whole experience has brought us closer together as a couple. We talk about what’s on our minds a lot more and appreciate what we’ve got.

“Our community has been very supportive. When we got out of hospital we came home to a card signed by virtually everybody in the village. That meant a lot to us.

“Now we just want to get back to normal and be part of village life.”