Former Royal Mail investigator Pat Tranter will never forget that fateful day 10 years ago on August 3, 1998, when a crooked postman turned a gun on him and two colleagues, leaving one of them dead. This week Pat, of Blacon, who took four bullets, was angered to learn that killer James Robinson has had his life sentence cut from 20 to 18 years. In this special report, he talks to DAVID HOLMES.
“THE word around theatre that day was that I must have had an angel sitting on my shoulder.”
Pat Tranter, 63, was recalling the words of his surgeon after being hit by a bullet on his left temple fired by James Robinson, the president of a local gun club.
The postman had taken aim at Pat’s vital organs after he and fellow Royal Mail investigators Andy Gardner and Neil Roberts entered his home.
Fortunately, Pat instinctively moved his left arm to grab his head and a second bullet aimed at his heart was deflected.
Another two bullets entered his body but, amazingly, none proved fatal.
Pat, who was airlifted to hospital, said the bullet which hit his temple came close to causing death.
“If it had been less than half a centimetre higher up I would have lost the sight in my left eye and less than half a centimetre further down and it would have been fatal. How I walked away from that I will never know,” said Pat, who at one stage was said by medics to be “a minute away from death”.
Andy Gardner, 34, a married family man, was killed at the scene at Ellesmere in Shropshire, leaving his widow, Fiona, to raise their four children alone. His pal, Neil, escaped physical injury.
“Any bitterness I feel towards Robinson is what he’s done towards those four young people. He has taken Andy’s life and yes he’s tried to take my life and Neil’s as well, but to see those young people without a dad...”
This week Pat learned Robinson’s life sentence for murder and attempted murder had been reduced on appeal from 20 to 18 years due to the “absence of premeditation”.
“I have always maintained that life should mean life,” said Pat, who harbours worries about the day Robinson is released.
Casting his mind back 10 years, Pat remembers entering Robinson’s home and finding mail piled up from “floor to ceiling”. The postman had been rifling through the post looking for cash and valuables.
After the shooting, Pat spent the next 18 months travelling to and fro between Chester and North Staffordshire Hospital, where he was originally treated, and slowly the physical wounds healed.
But then there was the psychological harm.
He began to realise that thoughts of returning to work part-time as a fraud investigator were unrealistic.
“The thought of going to knock on somebody else’s door without knowing whose door you were knocking on was too much,” he said.
And soon he came within the grips of what he refers to as “the four walls syndrome”.
For 12 months he simply couldn’t cope with stepping outside his home in Church Hall Close, Blacon.
There were other knock-on effects.
“I hated November 5 and the weeks leading up to it. A firework was like a gunshot, a car back-firing was a gunshot.”
Pat received an early retirement package from the Post Office and has never been in paid work since that day although he has done voluntary work including acting as a “buddy” at Blacon High School where he helped children with reading and maths.
“I was helping them and unknown to them they were helping me,” said Pat, who credits his wife, Frederika, daughter Michelle and grandchildren Ben, 14, and Chloe, 10, with getting him through.
He can no longer watch films because of the prevalence of violence and worries about the influence of computer games on young people’s minds.
“I walked into young Ben’s room and he has an Xbox and it was the most violent thing in there, involving shooting. OK, it’s make-believe, but for me there is far too much.”