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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Wounded man hailed as 'hero'

A judge has praised a reluctant hero who tackled a drunken man wielding a gun who tried to kill him.

Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin told Robert Andrew Coulter that but for the "exemplary bravery" of 24-year-old father of two George McCoo, a community's worst nightmare might have come true.

He had been playing football with his son and other youngsters in Craigwell Avenue, Portadown on 31 July last year when a drunken Coulter staggered into the street brandishing a Czech assault rifle which he then cocked.

Mr Justice McLaughlin's praise of Mr McCoo came as he jailed 34-year-old Coulter for 11 years for attempting to murder Mr McCoo as he struggled to disarm him.

'Lucky escape'

The court had heard that Mr McCoo, who had cleared the street of terrified youngsters before going to tackle Coulter, was wounded during a scuffle between the two over the assault rifle.

The court heard that Coulter pulled out a revolver and shot at Mr McCoo, wounding him in the head.

Mr Justice McLaughlin said Mr McCoo "had an extremely lucky escape" and that he wished to "express the appreciation of the court" in tackling Coulter from Armagh Road, Portadown.

Jailing Coulter for 11 years on condition he serves three years probation on his release, Mr Justice McLaughlin said he was satisfied the shift worker was an alcoholic suffering from delusions and paranoia, but not a member of, or suspected of being associated with, any paramilitary group.

"I am also satisfied you are not a hardened criminal, but a person with a considerable work record despite your alcoholism, and whilst sober you do not pose any threat to the public," he added.

Mr Justice McLaughlin also said he accepted Coulter had exhibited remorse and understanding for what he had done.

The judge said the defendant deserved credit for his guilty pleas to attempted murder and possession of the assault rife and revolver and ammunition.

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