A tree surgeon who tried to pin the blame for a fatal doorstep shooting on his 14-year-old son has been convicted of murder.
Matthew Moseley, 50, opened his front door and gunned down Lee Holt, 32, before he handed the shotgun to son Thomas and told him: “Tell them you have done it because you can’t get done for it.”
Out of love and loyalty to his father, the teenager then made a fake confession to police when they arrived at the family home near Accrington, Lancashire, on October 25 last year.
Thomas was arrested and when led away in handcuffs he said to his father: “I’m sorry dad. I’m really sorry.”
The teenager decided to tell the truth when interviewed by police, Preston Crown Court heard.
He told officers: “I thought I was covering my dad’s arse. Sticking up for him.
“He is my dad. I love him to bits but you would think he would take responsibility for what he has done and not let his son take the blame for him.”
The defendant claimed the shooting was an accident after he grabbed the semi-automatic Beretta weapon from his son to try to lift it upwards and the gun “just went off”.
Jurors heard, though, that initially Moseley told police he did not know who shot Mr Holt and never mentioned in nine subsequent interviews in custody that his hand was on the firearm when it was discharged in Barnard Close, Oswaldtwistle.
Prosecutor Robert O’Sullivan QC accused Moseley of inventing his account after waiting for the evidence to be served against him following his charge for murder.
Mr Holt went to Barnard Close with his partner, Kate Phelan, 34, and her 15-year-son, Wesley Metcalfe, to confront Thomas over an ongoing dispute between the schoolboys.
Witnesses said Ms Phelan banged on the front windows and Mr Holt kicked the front door as they shouted for the Moseleys to come out.
Thomas Moseley said he then saw his father – a keen clay pigeon shooter – bend down on one knee and take out one of his licensed guns from a cabinet next to the porch and load it with three cartridges.
His father told him to ring the police, he said, and 11 seconds into the 999 call Mr Holt was shot once in the chest and died in hospital later the same evening.
From that point onwards the defendant sought to manipulate his son into falsely taking the blame for the shooting, said the Crown.
In a covert recording of a prison van conversation, Matthew Moseley can be heard telling his son: “You are a minor. You can’t go to any jail.
“Self defence for you and you didn’t know what you were doing. Me, different ball game. And that is the way we have got to go with this.”
Giving evidence in the three-week trial, Matthew Moseley denied he had asked his son to say anything on his his behalf.
He said the Beretta shotgun had been left out for cleaning and he saw his son with three cartridges in his hand amid the commotion outside.
He then claimed he made his intervention at the front door when Thomas aimed the weapon at Mr Holt.
The jury rejected Matthew Moseley’s account and unanimously found him guilty after they deliberated for just under three hours and 20 minutes.
Matthew Moseley will be sentenced on Tuesday at 9.30am.