A FOURTH person has admitted the senseless shooting of swans in Withybush Woods.

Gareth George Mattson, 33, of Goshawk Road, Haverfordwest, was due to stand trial at Haverfordwest magistrates court today (Wednesday), but changed his plea to guilty at the start of the hearing.

Mattson admitted possession of a weapon in a public place and intentionally killing a swan jointly with three others on October 19.

The court heard that a swan was taken to a local veterinary practice by a member of the public on October 21, but had to be put down because of the extent of its injuries.

A dead cygnet was brought in during the following days, and x-rays revealed the bird had pellets in its leg and abdomen.

Another injured swan had to be put down due to an injured wing.

Mattson, who was of previous clean character, was arrested on January 14, and denied he had shot any bird when interviewed.

He told officers that would have been unable to see the swans at the time as he wore glasses, but accepted he could have shot one by accident without knowing.

Megan Goldcrest, prosecuting, told the bench that one of the group involved in the incident thought he saw Mattson shoot the bird, Mattson then reportedly stated: “I think I got a hit.”

Jonathan Webb, defending, told the court that Mattson, a farm labourer, was aware of the public out-cry after the swans were killed.

He said: “Clearly this is a very emotive case.”

The court heard that the group had planned to shoot rabbits on land Mattson had permission to use, when they set out with the air rifle at 10pm, but couldn’t find any.

As they walked back to their car through Withybush Woods they decided to shoot at the pond, and saw swans coming out.

The group took it in turns to shoot at the birds, but Mattson claimed he was not aiming directly at them in the dark.

The bench was told that he was ‘deeply remorseful’, and knew when the shots were fired it was wrong.

Following a report from the probation service, magistrates decided that Mattson was ‘equally compliant’ with the other adults involved and had shown remorse.

The bench sentenced Mattson to a five month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £60 compensation, £350 towards court costs and a £115 surcharge.

Three other people, who admitted being involved in the offence at earlier hearings, have already been sentenced. Benjamin Phillips, 24, of Jury Lane, Haverfordwest, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work plus a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

A youth, who cannot be named due to a court order, was given a 12-month referral order, and ordered to pay £105 in court costs and charges.

Joseph David Lawson, 19, of Patchwork Road, Shorebrook, Derbyshire, formerly of Milford Haven, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, with a 25 day rehabilitation activity requirement. He will also pay a £115 surcharge, £85 court costs and £60 towards the vet bill.