ONE day he was due to be married, the next he was buried, killed by a spurned love rival.

Former RAF sergeant Uriah 'Hughie' Jones was kissing his future wife goodnight at her parents' home when he was blasted through a window by drunken Percy Brownsea who claimed he only intended to frighten the couple and not harm them.

Jones, 29, died from head and neck injuries and was buried five days later at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton.

The 27-year-old woodcutter was charged with murder, prosecutor Ewen Montagu submitting at his trial at Hampshire Assizes: "This was a deliberate shooting motivated by the blind jealousy of a man who had been thrown over after a long and passionate love affair."

Beatrice Sheen, who suffered facial injuries in the blast, was the woman at the centre of the tragedy which rocked the tiny community in which she and her one-time lover dwelt.

Brownsea lived about 20 minutes walk away from her converted army hut home and they had known each other since from 1943. They became lovers and she wrote a series of passionate letters to him, one declaring: "My dearest darling and loving husband-to-be."

He proposed with an engagement ring and she readily accepted but within weeks by October 1946, her ardour had cooled. She sold the ring because he would not take it back and gave him the cash.

Sheen had fallen for Jones who, after the war, ran a flourishing sand and gravel business in Southampton. Friendship ripened into love and they spent Christmas with his family talking excitedly of their plans, unaware the increasingly embittered Brownsea had borrowed a .410 shotgun and cartridges on the pretext he was going rabbit shooting.

That fateful New Year's Eve, he wrote two letters to Sheen, pleading to see her in the desperate hope they could be reconciled. She agreed but firmly told him she was in love with Jones and would marry him the following day. Remarkably, he kept his feelings to himself because he later joined the couple at a pub where locals remembered the atmosphere was friendly as they amicably chatted.

Daily Echo: Victim Uriah Jones

At closing time, Jones even drove Brownsea home before returning to Breen's home in the hamlet of Sixpenny Handley, Dorset, where they discussed the final wedding arrangements, as Brownsea's mood darkened. Armed with the shotgun, he walked up her drive and clambered onto a five-foot high bank behind the house where he could peer through the windows.

What then happened was described by E G Robey who was appearing for the Director of Public Prosecutions at the committal proceedings: "They had put an arm around each other to say goodnight and as their lips met, the deceased received no less than 68 pellets to the right hand side of his neck and head which killed him almost instantly. Miss Sheen suffered nine scattered wounds to the right side of her face."

Family and friends quickly arrived at the scene but there was nothing they could do to save Jones. Instead, they vainly searched for Brownsea. However, within hours, police arrested him and recovered the shotgun.

Before being charged with murder, he told detectives: "I had a lot of beer and was not sober. I decided to go for a walk and took the gun with me. I walked to within five yards of Miss Sheen's house and stood on the bank. The lights were on but I didn't see anyone in the house. Not being sober, I put the gun to fire through both windows, not intending to harm but frighten them, and I fired the gun. I walked back the same way I had come. I am sorry. I didn't mean to hurt anyone as we were pals."

But Robey suddenly produced the motive for murder - a letter he had written to Jones in which he accused Sheen of dumping him because he had a lorry, a house and money. Citing jealousy, Robey submitted: "His fire was held until the psychological moment when these people were kissing each other goodnight."

Sheen told magistrates Brownsea had tried "to make up with her" half a dozen times after she had told him she was in love with Jones. Of the shooting, she recalled: ""We were kissing and the next thing I knew we were hit by something. We both rolled onto the floor. I can remember, as his head hit me in the chest, he said 'Oh dear, Beat.' Hughie did not move again."

At his trial the following March, Brownsea reiterated he had accidentally killed Jones, telling the court Sheen had lied to him about the forthcoming wedding when he saw her a few hours before the shooting. "She told me 'For your information, I am not going to marry Hughie or anyone else."

That evening, she had boasted to him no one could frighten her. "So, in my drunken humour, I went up the garden path to the bank at the back of the house. As soon as I got there, I turned and saw no one in the house and I fired through both windows. I suddenly realised I had done something foolish and went straight home."

Jurors retired for less than an hour before acquitting him of murder but convicting him of manslaughter.

Jailing him for seven years, the judge told him: "You took a lethal weapon to a house where you knew there were human beings and you fired the gun into the room where you had every reason you expected them to be. The result was that you wounded one and killed the other."