A MAN who killed a much-loved grandfather after drunkenly shooting him with a high-powered air rifle while being driven home from the pub has been jailed.

Jamie Hellings was foolishly showing off by pointing the weapon out of the window of his friend’s car when he fired the fatal shot.

Christopher Kay was innocently gardening outside his home when he was hit with the pellet which severed a main artery.

Despite the best efforts of neighbours and paramedics the grandfather was pronounced dead at James Cook University Hospital following the drive-by shooting last August.

Today, Hellings was jailed for six years and eight months after Teesside Crown Court heard the devastating impact the death of Mr Kay had on his family.

His son Paul Kay said the family was struggling to come to terms with the loss of their father and impact it was having on their daily lives.

“Friends and family have commented that I have not been my usual self, quieter than usual, more into myself. I find myself constantly thinking about what happened, how it happened, why it happened and if anything could be done to prevent it,” he said.

He added: “Some of the information shared with us as the investigation progressed has made me feel physically sick - I have literally felt my stomach tighten in knots. One example of this is knowing that my dad was one of the people to make the call to the emergency services requesting an ambulance, knowing my dad had the soundness of mind to acknowledge he had been shot and make that phone call whilst also trying to imagine the fear that was running through his mind is incomprehensible to me.”

The Northern Echo: Chris Kay's funeral cortegeChris Kay's funeral cortege

The court heard how Hellings had fired the gun twice while being driven to his Loftus home after being picked up in Saltburn where he had spent the afternoon drinking.

The air rifle, a BSA ultra multishot, had just been returned to his friend on the day of the tragic shooting, said Nick Dry, prosecuting.

He said: “The defendant accepted that while in drink he had deliberately and recklessly fired an air rifle out of the window of a moving car, the second shot being fired in a busy residential area hitting and sadly killing Mr Kay in his front garden.”

“The barrel was across the driver, with the driver’s side window wound down and an air rifle was discharged across the residential area.

“I accept the defendant had not taken fire deliberately at Mr Kay.”

Hellings, of Coronation Road, Loftus, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and possession of a firearm without a certificate.

Richard Herrman, in mitigation, said his client had shown genuine remorse for the killing and it would remain with him for the rest of his life.

He told the court that it was an unforeseen sequence of unusual circumstances that resulted in the death of Mr Kay.

He said: “This is a step out of the ill-fortune line but when the defendant carried out that ludicrously stupid and reckless act, no doubt playing the fool, that Mr Kay happened to be on the other side of the hedge out of sight and then the frankly freak and tragic nature of the injury that was caused by that tiny pellet.”

Judge Howard jailed Hellings for six years and eight months.