Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Man acquitted of break-in murder

Ken Batchelor
Kenneth Batchelor shot body builder Matthew Clements at close range

A man who shot dead an intruder at his Kent home, days after receiving threats, has been cleared of murder.

Kenneth Batchelor, 51, Canterbury Road, Chilham, walked free from Maidstone Crown Court after a week-long trial.

He had admitted accidentally shooting Matthew Clements, 42, in November 2007 who appeared at an open window after climbing up scaffolding.

The court heard Mr Clements, of Ashford, was a 20-stone, 6ft-tall "bully" with an "explosive temper".

Following the verdict, Judge Jeremy Carey said: "No-one should draw any conclusions of a general kind on this case."

He said it was a "most unusual case".

'Tears of joy'

Mr Batchelor, a mechanic specialising in Porsches, said he accidentally discharged one shot from a 12-bore shotgun at "very close quarters" as Mr Clements tried to pull open an upstairs window in the early hours of 18 November 2007.

Jurors heard that the victim, a body builder who ran a business providing nightclub security staff and trained guard dogs, made threats towards Mr Batchelor and his family in the run-up to the incident.

Mr Batchelor's wife Lynda cried tears of joy in the public gallery as the verdict was read out to a round of applause from family and friends.

That night my body was made to run on a powerful cocktail of adrenaline and fear
Kenneth Batchelor

Outside court Mr Batchelor said his acquittal was a "big weight" off his mind. Asked if the case should ever have gone to court, he shook his head.

He said: "That night my body was made to run on a powerful cocktail of adrenaline and fear but which controlled which, I have... no idea".

Prosecutor Cairns Nelson said of Mr Clements: "He was a man capable of violence, a man prone to an explosive temper. He could be a bully."

He became "fixated" with the notion he was owed maintenance money by the Batchelor family following a former relationship between his girlfriend and Kenneth Batchelor's brother Gary which produced three children.

The jury was told Mr Clements "started to demand money with menaces" and on the evening of 17 November began making threatening phone calls to Kenneth Batchelor and his other brother David after drinking heavily and smoking cannabis.

Mr Batchelor, the court was told, decided to arm himself with a legally-owned shotgun at his home and not call the police, but to "resolve the matter himself".

'Screaming hysterically'

Around 0130 GMT, as Mr Batchelor was on the phone to his fiancee, Clements appeared at his home and "ripped open his shirt to show his chest".

Mr Batchelor was heard to exclaim "Oh my God, I think he's turned up" before proceeding to swear at Mr Clements.

Mr Clements reportedly shouted: "I told you I was coming to get you" as Mr Batchelor was heard to reply "Why are you here? Is it because of Gary?"

Moments later, Mr Batchelor was heard screaming hysterically down the phone saying: "I've killed him."

Summing up the defence case, Malcolm Swift QC said Mr Batchelor always maintained the firing of the gun "was an accident pure and simple" with the trigger pulled as a result of Clements launching himself at the window where Mr Batchelor stood.

Mr Swift said: "People who had dealings with him were terrified of him. He had a history of intimidating people and of using violence against them."

Det Ch Ins Mick Atkinson, from Kent Police, said they believed it was a case for a "jury to decide upon".

He said: "We would urge anyone who feels under threat in a situation like this one to contact police at the earliest opportunity and not to take the law into their own hands."

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