A FORMER soldier sparked a manhunt by armed police after firing his air rifle twice following
A FORMER soldier sparked a manhunt by armed police after firing his air rifle twice following a row with three women.
Up to eight officers with guns and a police helicopter swooped on Shiplake after the drama on the Thames towpath.
A section of the A4155 near the Plowden Arms and Church Lane were closed as they searched for 49-year-old Marc Pearson and then arrested him near his houseboat and took him to Abingdon police station.
He was later released without charge after explaining that he had fired his gun twice in frustration after the row with the dog walkers.
Mr Pearson apologised through the Henley Standard, saying: “I’m absolutely mortified that I did something so stupid and have upset people.”
The drama took place at lunchtime on Tuesday last week near the 60ft narrowboat Scruffy Noddy, where he lives with his wife Sian, a drama teacher at Shiplake College, and their dog Alfie and three cats.
Mr Pearson, who is off work for health reasons, said he was on the boat when the women went past with several dogs and a boxer belonging to one of them came on board.
The owner came to retrieve the dog but she didn’t offer an apology.
He said: “I said, ‘that’s really stupid and you’re professional dog walkers and you should know your own dogs’. I was stressed as I’ve been off work since January.
“As she pulled the dog off, they were laughing together and saying: ‘It’s only a dog and dogs chase cats’.
“They walked off and I said very jokingly that next time I’d shoot them. They carried on walking.
“I’ve got an air rifle and took two pops at a can of dog food I’ve put on the roof for target practice.
“The women were about 300m downstream going towards Henley before I even took the gun out.”
Mr Pearson, who served in the Grenadier Guards for 22 years, said he went back in his boat with the 0.22 calibre rifle. He then went to check on a friend’s boat which had come loose from the bank and was returning to fetch a rope when the police arrived.
Mr Pearson said: “There were about half a dozen of them, maybe eight. I was carrying a grappling hook. They shouted ‘put the weapon down’ so I put that down.
“My dog was with me and they shouted ‘is he dangerous?’ and I said ‘no, it’s Alfie’.
“They arrested me, handcuffed me and took me to Abingdon. They were lovely to meÂ and I’ve got nothing against the police.”
After being released, he got back to his boat at about 10pm that day but had to report to Henley police station on Monday to answer more questions.
Mr Pearson, who worked in the catering department at the Abbey School in Reading and is now recovering from an operation after being diagnosed withÂ sciatica, said he had fired his weapon to “let some tension off”.
“It’s so out of character for me,” he said. “I’m not a nasty person — I’ve never been a nasty person.”
He said he would like to apologise to the women in person, adding: “I really want these people to come down. I’d make them tea and cake to show that I’m not horrible.
“The Thames Path belongs to every single person but they shouldn’t feel they can’t walk here.
“If they don’t want to meet me I’d love to give them a handwritten letter.”
Mr Pearson said his wife had been unimpressed by his actions, adding: “I’ve been paying for it every single day since. I’m not the most liked person at the moment.”
Gregg Davies, headmaster of Shiplake College, said he was told about the incident by the college bursar Neil Walne, who was on the scene.
He added: “The first time we knew it was Marc was when he came back. Knowing him, he will be full of absolute remorse. He really is a lovely, chatty guy.”
Thames Valley Police confirmed they were investigating the discharge of a firearm and said a weapon had been recovered.