Gamekeeper’s death accidental, FAI concludes

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The death of a Lauder gamekeeper from a gunshot wound to the head was an 
accident, a sheriff has concluded, writes Andrew 
Keddie.

The body of Gavin Donaldson, 37, was found next to his vehicle on remote moorland near Oxton on the morning of May 6 last year.

Following a fatal accident inquiry at Jedburgh last week, Sheriff Kevin Drummond found that the death of Mr Donaldson, who had been checking crow traps as part of his employment, could have been avoided if his bolt-action rifle had been unloaded when it was placed inside the cab of his vehicle.

Later examination of the 0.22 weapon revealed that the safety catch was in the “off” position and that it contained five rounds of ammunition, consistent with a single shot having been fired.

“At the time of his death, he was found in a position which was consistent with him being about to re-enter his vehicle, having placed the rifle in a position in the cab which permitted it to jar,” said Sheriff Drummond.

“The precise mechanism cannot be specified with certainty, but I am satisfied the rifle was accidentally discharged from within the vehicle … the shot struck the deceased, causing his death.”

The sheriff concluded: “The placing of a loaded rifle within a vehicle is, in itself, a hazardous action.”