Farmer shot at thieves” van to save his mother”s life. Now he could face attempted murder trialFormer public schoolboy fired at thieves as they made their getawayReignites debate over how far householders can go to protect their family and property

A young farmer who saved his mother from being run over by intruders fears he could be prosecuted for attempted murder.

Bill Edwards, 21, fired his shotgun at a van laden with stolen metal cable after catching thieves red-handed on his family’s property.

The former public schoolboy said he acted in desperation as they sped towards his mother, Louisa Smith, 50, who was dialling 999.

Taking aim: Bill Edwards practicing with his shotgun. His father Gary described the young farmer as a

Taking aim: Bill Edwards practicing with his shotgun. His father Gary described the young farmer as a “very, very good shot”

But when police finally intercepted two suspects after a high-speed chase Mr Edwards was arrested and told he could be charged with attempted murder.

The dramatic confrontation will reignite the controversy over how far householders can go to protect their families and property from criminals.

I was scared stiff...

This week Andy and Tracey Ferrie spoke of their ‘living nightmare’ after they were held by police over the shooting of two intruders. Mr Ferrie spent days fearing he could face an attempted murder trial after shooting at two of four men who broke into his Leicestershire home.

Prosecutors later announced he would not be charged, saying the couple ‘did what they believed was necessary to protect themselves and their home from intruders’.

The latest case took place when Mr Edwards and his mother travelled to outbuildings at woodland they own on the outskirts of Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Their property has been plagued by burglars who smash their way into the buildings and steal valuable cable and scrap metal.

The pair discovered two men loading a Ford Transit with cable worth 6,000 from farm machinery.

Asthey called police, the suspects jumped into the van, revved the engineand accelerated towards Mrs Smith at least twice, knocking her over.

Inthe confusion Mr Edwards fired his legally held shotgun, which was loaded with light-weight rabbit shot. The shots shattered the windscreenand damaged the door but the driver was unharmed and drove through a gate to escape.

Two men werecaught six miles away after Mr Edwards gave chase in his Mercedes estate while his mother gave a running commentary to police on her mobile phone.

Mr Edwards’s father Gary, 67, said: ‘The guy got in the van to drive off. They thought he was going to drive out the gate but he diverted to drive straight at them.

Bill tried to defend his mother by shooting at thieves who were driving towards her Bill tried to defend his mother by shooting at thieves who were driving towards her

Bill Edwards was praised by his father after he shot at thieves who knocked his mother over

‘Maybe he thought Louisa was still trying to get through to the police. Bill got out the way but Louisa went down.

‘Bill started shooting at the vehicle. The first shot destroyed half the window. The second took out the rest and the third took off the driver’s mirror and changed the shape of the door.

‘The guy gave up his attack and drove 140 metres down the farm track. The gate was closed but he went straight through it.

‘Once he stopped his attack, Bill stopped firing. He and Louisa got into his Mercedes and chased them giving a running commentary to the police all the time.’

Mrs Smith was left with cuts and bruises after falling and scrambling up a mound of earth to escape the van in the attack over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Her ex-husband added: ‘She told me the driver had his foot on the floor and was revving his engine as hard as he could. She was so scared she could not remember Bill firing.’ When a police armed response unit arrived 45 minutes later they arrested Mr Edwards and his mother and held them at Scarborough Police Station for almost 24 hours.

It is believed they have a recording of the 999 call in which the shots can be heard as Mrs Smith shouts: ‘He is trying to kill us, shoot his tyres.’

Mr Edwards’s father said: ‘They suspect him of being in possession of a firearm with intent. They also suspect him of attempted murder – which is laughable.

‘He is a very good shot. If he had wanted to hit the guy he would have done. He was just trying to stop the attack on his mother.

‘I am immensely proud of Bill. He is only 21 but very, very sensible and is no way predisposed to any kind of violence. Anyone else would have done nothing – or blown the guy’s head off.

‘He was entitled to kill the guy and could easily have done. He had no choice given the slow police response.’

Scarborough’s Tory MP Robert Goodwill said the dramatic confrontation had ‘all the echoes’ of the Leicestershire case.

He said: ‘I would always defend my constituents protecting their property from thieves. What else could this young man do They could have killed his mother. I hope that the police will act, as they have in the Leicestershire case, by not bringing charges.

‘Obviously, the police do have to investigate – but if the facts are as we understand I would be incensed if they brought a charge against the son.’

North Yorkshire Police said two suspected thieves, aged 39 and 59, as well as Mr Edwards and Mrs Smith, have been released on bail.