Ian Catley
Ian Catley (L) admitted to shooting his close friend Philip Harper last JuneCambridge Police

A man has been jailed for seven years after he admitted shooting dead a friend who wanted to test his recently purchased "bulletproof" vest.

Ian Catley, 40, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of close friend Philip Harper following an incident on farmland in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, on 29 June last year.

The previous day, Harper had bought what he thought to be a bulletproof vest from a military surplus store and was "very keen" to test its effectiveness.

Southwark Crown Court heard while the kit was protective, it was not in fact bulletproof. While out hunting for rabbits and pigeons on the Melbourn land, Catley agreed to shoot Harper with his shotgun.

The shot caused "catastrophic" injuries, which Harper later died from. Catley pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Harper – a survival enthusiast described as a "delinquent Ray Mears" by his family – last November.

Upon sentencing, Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC told Catley: "You shot Mr Harper at a distance of less than 20ft, causing him catastrophic injuries and immediate death.

"You then, straight away, took him to hospital but tragically, nothing could be done to save his life."

He added: "Your remorse is complete and genuine. You recognise the magnitude of your actions and I have no doubt that the effects of killing your good friend will last with you for the rest of your life."

Detective Inspector Ian Simmons, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: "This is a particularly sad case, where a foolish incident ended in tragedy.

"These second-hand protective vests should not be relied on whatsoever to protect you from gunshot and I'm urging people to take this as a warning.

"Our deepest sympathies are with Mr Harper's family and friends at this time."