Chelsea defender Ashley Cole faces police investigation after shooting student at Cobham training ground
Surrey police are to investigate whether Ashley Cole should face criminal charges after he accidentally shot and wounded a 21-year-old student who was on work experience at Chelsea’s training ground.
By Jason Burt 11:00PM GMT 27 Feb 2011
Cole will be fined by Chelsea — the defender faces a fine of up to £250,000, the equivalent of two weeks’ wages — but it is understood that he is not planning to make a public apology over the extraordinary incident.
The police said they will contact Chelsea after reports emerged on Sunday that Cole had fired a high-powered air rifle at Tom Cowan, a Loughborough University sports science student who is on a year’s internship with the club.
Although no one doubts this was an accident — Cole is believed to have thought the gun was not loaded — it calls into question the behaviour of the club’s players and begs the question as to why the 30 year-old was in possession of such a weapon at the training ground.
A Chelsea spokesman said: “We have fully investigated the incident and we are taking appropriate action. We will not be commenting further as it is an internal matter.”
However, the potential involvement of the police may alter that approach with a spokesman for Surrey police saying: "We can confirm that while no direct allegation has been made to Surrey police, the matter has been brought to our attention through reports in the media, and we will be contacting the club in due course to establish whether any criminal offence has been committed."
The spokesman added that officers would interview “whoever runs the training establishment at Cobham”.
The fact that Chelsea, in the club’s statement, have detailed “appropriate action” would suggest that they are planning to fine or discipline Cole who has already been spoken to about his conduct following the incident, which happened last Sunday.
Cole can be fined a maximum of two weeks’ wages for his actions although he has previously reacted angrily to the threat of being disciplined.
He is understood to have privately threatened to quit English football after the storm over allegations concerning his behaviour while on the club’s pre-season tour to the United States two years ago, when it was claimed that he smuggled a woman into the team hotel and lied to club officials to cover his tracks.
Chief executive Ron Gourlay delivered a message to the players and all the staff, at that time, warning them about their future conduct and the need to protect the club’s image which has been damaged again by the latest revelations. They also add to the criticism that the regime at the training ground is too lax.
There will be concern at the club that Cole’s latest actions will tarnish the perception of Chelsea and Eugene Tenenbaum, a director and owner Roman Abramovich’s right-hand man, can expect to be fully briefed on what happened and what is being done about it.
Chelsea have a policy of not making any action they take against players public but there will be pressure on them to disclose whether Cole will be punished for this latest episode, especially as manager Carlo Ancelotti will hold a pre-match briefing at the training ground on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s league game at home to Manchester United.
Although Cole is believed to have apologised privately to Cowan the fact that he is not making a public statement is a surprise although, given the outcry over his behaviour, that stance may change.
The shooting is understood to have taken place in a dressing room as Cole was, according to a witness, “larking about” with the rifle just 24 hours after Chelsea’s FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Everton and as the squad prepared to fly out to Denmark for a Champions League tie.
Cole had the .22 air rifle, complete with muzzle and nightscope, in the training ground although whether the weapon was his is under dispute. It is one of the most powerful type of guns that can be legally owned in Britain without a licence. Sources claim that Cole has stated the gun was not his and he is understood to have fired it at Cowan in the belief that it was not loaded.
The sources also claimed that the student suffered only a slight wound after being hit by a lead pellet and that the incident had been “blown out of all proportion”. Nevertheless Chelsea medical staff treated the wound and Cowan did not require hospital attention.
Cole was found guilty of making contact with Chelsea while still with Arsenal over a possible move without informing his club. He was fined £100,000 by the Premier League for the tapping-up meeting held at a hotel in January 2005.
Performed a high tackle on Tottenham’s Alan Hutton, and turned his back on referee Mike Riley while being booked, an episode which renewed debate over the game’s rules on dissent.
Held by police after swearing in front of a police officer outside a South Kensington nightclub. He was taken to a police station and issued with an £80 fixed penalty notice before being released.
Convicted after being recorded doing 104 mph in a 50 mph zone. His defence argued unsuccessfully that the police speed gun was faulty.
Divorced from the nation’s darling Cheryl Cole following four allegations of adultery.
Shot and wounded student Tom Cowan at training ground