A pigeon fancier shot and killed his neighbour in a drunken rage after blaming her for a fire which engulfed his birds' loft, a court heard yesterday.
Michael Stockton (44) blasted Susan Rondel in the chest at close range after shooting his way into her home, a jury at Birmingham Crown Court was told.
Nigel Baker QC, opening the case for the Crown, said the killing occurred in the first few minutes of December 27 last year at Mrs Rondel's semi-detached property in Vernon Close, Audley, north Staffordshire.
Mr Baker told the jury that the defendant gunned down the 48-year-old mother-of-two, who hailed from Wrexham, shortly after he was heard shouting anti-Welsh abuse.
Outlining the events leading up to Mrs Rondel's death, he told the court: "Shortly after midnight on Boxing Day last year, the defendant took a shotgun from his gun cabinet. He loaded it with three cartridges and he went to the property of Susan Rondel.
"He shot out the security light and he then shot out the lock on her kitchen door, gained entry into the property and shot her at close range in the chest, causing her to die almost immediately."
Mr Baker said it was plain that there was a background of friction between Stockton and Mrs Rondel, who owned several cats.
"She believed that Mr Stockton was poisoning her cats ... he was a pigeon fancier and he believed she was aggravating his pigeons," Mr Baker added.
The court heard that on June 29 last year a fire had destroyed a pigeon loft at Stockton's home in Vernon Avenue, a blaze which he attributed to "Mrs Rondel or her agents".
Stockton, a shooting enthusiast, held licences for a number of weapons, including the Italian Beretta shotgun the prosecution allege was used in the killing.
The court was told that Stockton was "partial to a pint of ale chased down with a short" and had spent much of Boxing Day drinking.
Mr Baker said Stockton had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, but was described by witnesses as being in a happy mood before he returned home.
But Stockton, who denies murder, became angry and agitated soon after returning home and told his partner that he was going to "sort out Mrs Rondel once and for all".
Abuse had been heard shortly before the gunshots, indicating a certain disrespect for the Welsh nation, the jurors heard.
Experts would tell the jury that the final shot was fired from a distance of about three feet, leaving Mrs Rondel, who was wearing pyjamas, lying dead at the foot of a stairway.
Mr Baker said Stockton had later admitted to his son that he had shot his neighbour before dialling 999.
Stockton, it is alleged, then told the operator about the fire which had destroyed his pigeon loft and that he had shot his neighbour.
The defendant, the Crown claim, then added: "She's dead and I've done wrong - it just had to be done."
In a second phone call about 20 minutes later, he acknowledged he had "lost the plot" and confirmed that he had shot Mrs Rondel in the chest.
Following his arrest on December 27, the pigeon fancier declined to answer questions during two police interviews.
His solicitor then provided officers with a prepared statement in which he claimed to remember shooting out the door, but to have no recollection of anything else.
The trial continues.