Moors rifle death was accidental, says Sheriff

A gamekeeper died after his own rifle was accidently discharged, a sheriff has found.

A fatal accident inquiry at Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard that Gavin Donaldson, 37, was found dead on moorland in May 2014.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond found the death could have been avoided if the rifle had been unloaded before it was placed inside his vehicle.

In his written findings, Sheriff Drummond said Mr Donaldson’s bolt action rifle was prone to accidental discharge when dropped butt-first with the safety catch off.

Mr Donaldson, of Lauder, was found near a crow trap on steep ground near Oxton, suggesting he had been inspecting the trap before he died.

The sheriff said it was likely the rifle had been placed in a position which allowed it to jar. He said: “The precise mechanism cannot be specified with certainty but I am satisfied that the rifle accidentally discharged from within the vehicle: the shot struck the deceased causing his death.”