A MASKED hoodie who fired a salvo of shots at a woman who refused to surrender her handbag in a Glenrothes woods was caged for more than five years today (Tuesday).
Skinny Oatis Fowler (20), armed himself with a realistic-looking pistol - designed to fire ball bearings - because he was not big enough to be a robber without a weapon.
Victim Catherine Bennett (44), was taken to hospital after she was attacked on the walkway and doctors found three wounds to her thighs and bum.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that she and companion Jean McMillan (52), who escaped injury, were still suffering the after-effects of the fright they suffered.
The CO2 powered weapon shocked a judge when Oatis Fowler admitted he was the would-be bag-snatcher.
“This must have caused extreme alarm,” said Lord Pentland.
And sentencing Fowler to five years and three months detention the judge told him: “I cannot lose sight of the fact that you willingly agreed to carry out this serious offence using a firearm which, to your victims, must have appeared to be a real gun.”
Homeless Fowler had been pushed into trying to get cash because he and his friends owed drug dealers £1000, the court heard.
Advocate depute Adrian Cottam, prosecuting, said the two women had left a nearby learning centre about 8.30 p.m. and were heading along Boblingen Way, a path through Warout Woods which is popular with cyclists and walkers.
They were looking at flowers when they became aware of someone loitering behind them, but simply continued walking.
Mr Cottam said they heard a loud voice demanding: ‘Give me what you’ve got. What’s in your bags? Hand them over’.
“Both ladies turned round and saw the accused wearing a black balaclava and holding a black pistol in his hand.
“Believing it to be a joke they exhaled as if to laugh at which time the accused stated: ‘I’m being serious ladies.’”
The court heard that the women swore at Fowwler and he threatened to shoot, standing about four feet away from them.
“Mrs Bennett and Mrs McMillan refused to hand over their bags and turned to walk away,” said Mr Cottam. “Mrs Bennett heard a loud click and thereafter a piercing pain in her right buttock.
“She turned round and began shouting at the accused,”
Fowler continued to demand the women’s bags and fired again, hitting Mrs Bennett in both thighs.
Mr Cottam described how Mrs Bennett used the carrier bag and folder she had been carrying as a shield as Fowler continued to shoot. Mrs McMillan ran to get help - chased by Fowler.
“The accused ran in the direction of Mrs McMillan shooting towards her approximately five to ten times.”
Fowler then ran towards the Glamis Centre leaving the women “visibly distressed” and Mrs Bennett bleeding from her injuries.
Later that evening, Fowler and a friend were walking along the path when they saw a police office standing by a cordoned off ‘crime scene’.
In a later text message, Fowler told the friend he had tried to take the bags from two women but claimed he had fired into the air before shooting one of them as she ran away.
The court heard that Mrs Bennett needed powerful anti-biotics to fight off the risk of infection but doctors decided to leave the pellets and let the wounds heal round them.
One wound was described as “superficial” but dangerously near a main artery.
When police finally tracked down Fowler he eventually admitted: “It was me. I had the gun.”
He said he and friends had hatched a plan to rob someone to pay off a debt. He had been wearing a grey hooded top and a balaclava.
Fowler said he became angry when the women swore at him and had shot a woman in the legs to show he wasn’t joking.
Mr Cottam said Fowler’s pistol was in good working order and tests showed that at very short range could fire pellets almost two inches into flesh.
Solicitor advocate Krista Johnston, defending, said the air pistol could be bought legally by anyone over 18 years old. Fowler had not intended to fire the gun and only wanted it to frighten the women.
“He is short and slim and not physically intimidating,” she added. “He is not uncaring about their feelings of fear.”
“He is a young man who can see this was a terrible crime.”
Fowler had pleaded guilty to assaulting the two women with intent to rob them on May 7.