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Thug jailed for catapult attack on teenage girl

Jeremy Waller
Jeremy Waller

A thug who left a teenage girl virtually blind in one eye after firing a catapult at her has been jailed for three years.

Jeremy Waller had fired stones four times at Claire Smith and her sister Leanne before causing the most serious injury.

A judge said it was one of the worst cases of wounding he had heard and told Waller: “It is a terrible and life-changing injury.”

The 24-year-old, of Queen Elizabeth Square, Maidstone, was sentenced to a further six months imprisonment for burglary and thefts in and around the town.

His girlfriend, Rachel Fuller, 19, Billy Taylor, 23, and his girlfriend Natasha Norris, 24, escaped being locked up for their part in the theft spree.

Maidstone Crown Court heard Claire Smith and her sister, who previously went out with Waller, were in Mote Park on June 4 2007.

Philip St John-Stevens, prosecuting, said there was a confrontation between Waller and Leanne before he started firing the catapult.

After telling them to run, stones struck both sisters, the final one hitting Claire, 19, in the left eye, causing a deep cut.

“She complained she was in great pain and couldn’t see anything,” said Mr St John-Stevens. “She was left with limited sight.”

Waller admitted unlawfully wounding Claire and assault causing actual bodily harm to Leanne.

He had 18 convictions for 43 offences, including dishonesty, violence and attempted robbery.

John Fitzgerald, defending, said the attack was against a background of animosity between Waller and Leanne.

Waller immediately said sorry to Claire, he said, and none of the shots were intended to hit her.

Judge Charles Macdonald said it was a grave offence and serious injury.

“To put it in plain language, this young woman has been virtually blinded in her left eye,” said the judge. “She can see light and dark and hand movements.

“She can’t drive a car and work opportunities have been affected. This is a terrible and life-changing injury.

“This is about as bad a wounding as I have ever seen. It is not said she did anything to provoke or cause him to use the catapult.”

Waller and Fuller, of Woodside Road, Maidstone, and Taylor and Norris, of Hampstead Lane, Yalding, admitted various theft and fraud charges.

The court heard that they carried out a series of thefts at shops or other buildings in and around Maidstone. Norris often had one of her two children in a push chair.

Prosecutor Mr St John-Stevens said one of the four would distract staff while others went into private rooms or offices and stole.

Victims included Pets Corner in Week Street, First Avenue boutique, opticians Dolland and Aitchison, Spa stores in Lenham, West End stores in Marden, Carphone Warehouse in Maidstone, Highlands Clinic in Gabriels Hill and Mandy Ellen School of Dance in Earl Street.

Waller also committed a burglary at a gallery in Medway Street, Maidstone, where he stole a cheque book.

John Fitzgerald, for Taylor, said his client had developed into a different man since the offences. He had settled down with Norris and her two children.

“For 11 months he hasn’t put a foot wrong,” he said. “It shows he has turned a corner and put a life of crime behind him.”

Fuller, Taylor and Norris were each sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment suspended for 18 months and will have to complete 100 hours unpaid work.

Judge Macdonald said the courts had to do what they could to protect shopkeepers.

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