Judge condemns 'Wild West' gunman

A CONVICTED robber gunned down a man in Leeds city centre - just weeks after being released early from prison.

Sean Hercules was back behind bars today after pleading guilty to the shooting, which took place off the Headrow close to the Warehouse nightclub.

The 27-year-old, from Holbeck, blasted his victim, Nathaniel Stapleton, with a double barrelled sawn-off shotgun in the early hours of September 10 last year.

In court yesterday it emerged Hercules had only been out of prison for 12 weeks when he carried out the attack, which was the culmination of a night of Wild West-style violence which brought terror to Leeds's clubland.

He had been allowed back on the streets after serving less than four years of the nine-year jail term he was given in 2001 for his part in a robbery at a post office in North Farm Road, Gipton.

Hercules had originally faced a charge of attempted murder in relation to the Warehouse shooting, which left Mr Stapleton with more than 250 gunshot pellets in his body.

However, his guilty pleas to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and possessing a prohibited weapon were accepted at his trial earlier this year.

At Bradford Crown Court yesterday, Hercules was told he would serve a minimum of six years before being considered for release.

Judge James Stewart QC stressed he would only be freed if the Parole Board decided that he no longer presented a danger to the public.

The judge said: "The citizens of Leeds who come out of nightclubs in the early hours of the morning are entitled to believe they live in a civilised society, not the Wild West."

Judge Stewart also praised Warehouse doorman Ricky Lister, who "put his own life at risk" by tackling Hercules to the ground following the shooting.

On the night of the attack, the gunman had visited the Warehouse before he and another man began riding high-powered motorbikes around the city centre.

His victim was waiting for a lift near the Pizza Express restaurant in Park Square when Hercules pulled up and turned a shotgun on him from a distance of about 20ft.

Mr Stapleton suffered pellet wounds to his thighs, groin and hand but discharged himself from hospital a few days later.

The court also heard that while Hercules was riding around Leeds, four people had been hurt when shots were fired indiscriminately at clubbers making their way home.

Prosecutor Jonathon (correct) Devlin conceded, however, that it could not be proved Hercules had fired the shots.

Mr Devlin said CCTV footage from the city centre's Grace Street car park showed that, earlier that same night, a man sitting near Hercules in a Toyota car had been shot in the wrist by a third party.

Barrister Andrew Stubbs, for Hercules, said his client thought he had been the intended target of that attack.

He also said Hercules had not been in possession of the shotgun until he used it on Mr Stapleton.

paul.robinsons@ypn.co.uk