Contractor shot man over ‘debts’ — (Gloucestershire Live)

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Gloucestershire Live

By The Bristol Post

Posted: October 12, 2011

A contractor shot dead a businessman on his doorstep in a row over £40,000 of unpaid debts before turning the weapon on himself, an inquest heard yesterday.

Michael Harper, 46, knocked on the door of Ray Masters’ village home in Somerset and told him: ‘‘You’ve had it Ray” as he pointed a shotgun at him.

Mr Masters immediately shut the door – but Harper shot him through the entrance four times in front of his horrified wife Fiorinda and daughter Melanie.

He then barged into the property and told Mrs Masters ‘‘I have no issue with you” before shooting her husband a fifth time through the chest.

Harper then went to a neighbouring graveyard in Westbury-sub-Mendip, near Wells in Somerset, and took his own life with a single gun shot to the head.

Yesterday the inquest into both men’s deaths heard how Harper had lost his home, business and wife over a financial feud with Mr Masters, 58.

His company was a sub-contractor for Mr Masters’ building firm and was owed £40,000 for work carried out in 2009, the hearing in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, was told.

Coroner Tony Williams described how Harper knocked on Mr Masters’ door in the picturesque village of Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset, shortly after 10pm on April 10 this year.

He told East Somerset Coroners Court in Shepton Mallet: ‘‘Fiorinda was startled and called to her husband that someone was at the door saying in jest ‘there might be someone at the door with a shotgun’.

‘‘After walking out together onto the driveway they saw Harper emerge from another doorway and point a double-barrelled shotgun at waist height towards them with Harper approaching them and saying ‘You’ve had it Ray’.”

Mr Masters’ daughter Melanie Thomas, who lived in an adjoining property, ran onto the driveway with husband Philip and the gun was briefly pointed at her before Harper aimed it back at the door.

By this point Mr and Mrs Masters had retreated back inside the £600,000 house but Harper then shot him four times through the door into his abdomen.

Mrs Masters rushed to push a panic alarm button and returned to the hallway to find her husband bleeding on the floor with Harper standing over him.

Mr Williams told the court: “She pleaded with him to leave before Harper said he had ‘no issue with her’ but then shot Mr Masters a fifth time into his upper chest at point blank range.”

Fiorinda tried to resuscitate him but he was declared dead shortly after paramedics arrived. Residents heard several gunshots and armed police descended on the village amid fears that a gunman was on the loose.

Harper’s body was found yards away, having killed himself with a single shot to the neck and face under his jaw in St Lawrence Church graveyard. He was a sub-contractor for one of Masters’ companies Fordham Bros and was owed a £40,000 debt for work carried out in 2009.

The firm had gone into liquidation in January 2010 and cheques to Harper, from Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, had bounced.

He suffered from mental health problems and, according to his wife Jane, had suffered “suicidal tendencies” for 17 years but was never known to have hurt himself.

Harper had been prescribed medication for depression by his GP but he had not taken it regularly because he believed it was ‘‘like lying to his brain”, the court heard.

On the night of the incident he had argued with his wife at home and become increasingly aggressive as he drank cider.

Coroner Mr Williams recorded a verdict of unlawful killing of Masters and a verdict of suicide on Harper.

He said: “Mr Harper shot and killed Mr Masters before killing himself with his own weapon. Mr Masters suffered shotgun wounds to his chest and back by someone of sound mind intending to kill.”

Ray Masters, who was shot dead in the village of Westbury-sub-Mendip

Ray Masters’ coffin being taken down Wells High Street at his funeral earlier this year, top. Middle: Ray Masters (left) and the church where Michael Harper was found dead. Bottom: Police scour the area on April 12 this year

Michael Harper shot Ray Masters, then turned the gun on himself.