Man saved his own life by lobbing duvet at jealous crossbow-wielding attacker

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 December 2017

Harley Tavener. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Harley Tavener. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary.


A weapons collector, who broke into his ex-partner’s Weston home and fired a crossbow at her new boyfriend with enough force to kill him, has been jailed.

Sandic and Brown were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court.Sandic and Brown were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court.

Harley Tavener has been sentenced to eight years in prison – though he is likely to only serve half that time – for the aggravated burglary in which he had an ‘arsenal’ of weapons in his car.

Bristol Crown Court heard on Tuesday how Tavener, aged 23, fired a crossbow 25 times more powerful than what is legally allowed, and his intended victim survived because he threw a duvet at his attacker.

Tavener had been given a restraining order not to contact his ex-partner Billie Hilsdon earlier in the year.

Despite this, at 2am on October 1, he broke into her home in George Street, confronting Ms Hilsdon and her boyfriend, Jack Merrick, in the bedroom.

Prosecutor George Threlfall said: “He was holding a crossbow and Mr Merrick jumped up and stood at the foot of the bed. The defendant pointed the crossbow at his head and when Mr Merrick moved, he followed and tracked him with the crossbow.

“Given the situation, Mr Merrick showed considerable presence of mind and picked up the duvet and threw it at the defendant, rather like a gladiator might have thrown a net at his opponent, just as the defendant fired the crossbow.”

The duvet absorbed the impact, although police later found the crossbow’s strength meant it was fired with ‘potentially fatal force’.

The pair fought, and Mr Merrick managed to restrain Tavener until the police arrived.

Officers discovered Tavener had a folding knife, craft knife, and a collection of crossbow bolts with him.

In his rucksack and car, they found what Judge Hart described as an ‘arsenal’ of weapons, including an air gun, a large crossbow, a hand axe, smoke grenade, knuckleduster, and duct tape.

The court heard how Tavener collected weapons as a ‘hobby’.

Judge William Hart, in sentencing, said: “You [Tavener] subjected Ms Hilsdon and Mr Merrick to a frightening ordeal.”

Judge Hart said Tavener ‘over-reacted dramatically’ to the breakdown of his marriage and there was a ‘significant degree of organisation’ to what he did.

The court heard how Tavener has been diagnosed with having an adjustment disorder.

Defending Tavener, David Scutt said: “His psychiatrist said the disorder was made worse by his personality deficits, as he was asocial and had only had one relationship.

“He was concerned for his son, and his estranged wife’s new man taking his place.

“He did not have the emotional or personality resources to deal with the situation.”

A restraining order will remain in place throughout Tavener’s time in prison.

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