A FORMER military marksman with an elite Special Forces unit has been jailed for drug dealing.
Father-of-three Graham Gower told Reading Crown Court he survived two tours of Afghanistan, leaving the forces with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after two sniper colleagues were killed in action.
There followed a slow descent into the twilight world of heroin addiction, leading to the 41-year-old’s arrest in the grounds of Donnington Cricket Club for selling the Class A controlled drugs heroin and cocaine.
Gower, who lives in Love Lane, Newbury, denied possession with intent to supply on September 6 last year and instead tried to blame his companions, Wayne Berry and Emma Shears.
But it took the jury just two-and-a-half hours to reject his story and to unanimously convict him.
Gower also has a previous conviction for possessing heroin with intent to supply, for which he was given a suspended sentence in 2014.
On Thursday, July 27, he told jurors he joined the army in 1993, becoming a Special Forces sniper and serving in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.
Gower said: “I did two, three-month tours of Afghanistan. I lost one of my best friends in Northern Ireland and lost my sniper number two in Afghanistan.
“They were both killed. It just got too much and I left in 2001.”
Suffering from untreated PTSD, he worked for Securicor and Arena Seating in Membury before joining a removals firm, the court heard.
Gower self medicated with heroin and, subsequent to his previous conviction for possession with intent to supply, sought help from substance misuse organisation, Swanswell.
But he told jurors he dropped out of the treatment programme after his “peer mentor” fell for him, sending him intimate texts which were discovered by his wife, Shelley.
Back on heroin, Gower was caught by Pc Chris Eaton and colleagues as he met Berry and Shears in the park, with 16 drug wraps in his pocket and a wad of cash.
Gower fled, but was tackled to the ground by the officers.
In court, he insisted he was the buyer, not the seller.
Jurors heard that Gower’s phone records contained references to colour coded items, which matched the colours on the drug packets he was carrying, but Gower claimed this was a reference to coloured containers he needed for work.
Elizabeth Lowe, prosecuting, said: “This is absolute nonsense – you’re making it up as you go along, aren’t you?”
Gower’s wife, Shelley, said her husband’s personality changed as he descended into addiction.
She confirmed she had told him to stop treatment at Swanswell after finding the text messages from his mentor.
Mrs Gower said: “She had taken a shine to him. I found the messages so I phoned her.
“She told me she liked Graham and wanted something more to happen. I was appalled. I felt betrayed after all we’d gone through.”
The judge, Recorder Ann Mulligan, sentenced Gower to three years’ imprisonment.