WHEN the Duchess of York visited Herefordshire in the spring of 1988 to open a new Young Farmers headquarters, she could have been forgiven for thinking the county had slipped back into the Middle Ages. Because as Fergie enjoyed the hospitality of Sir John and Lady Cotterell on their Garnons Estate at Byford, had she cared to look out of the window she may have caught a glimpse of police scouring the leafy landscape for “a dangerous bowman”.

However, the helicopter and tracker dogs were not on the trail of a reincarnated Robin Hood, but a loner called Barrington Wood, who, despite his wooden leg, had managed to scarper after shooting a taxi driver with a crossbow following a dispute over a fare.

At the time, 32-year-old Wood had a home near the village of Shucknall, but took to living rough in the Herefordshire countryside in an effort to hide from the law.

He was unsuccessful, but the Royal visitor did not linger long enough at Garnons to witness the end of the hunt. Shortly after she left the country pile, Wood was run to ground on the estate by the sniffer dogs. It was the culmination of an extraordinary episode.

When cab driver Clive Bevis picked up Wood from Hereford city centre in the early hours of Sunday, May 8, 1988 with instructions to drive him eight miles home, it seemed much like any other routine taxi job. But what Mr Bevis did not know was that the one legged Wood, who had already served a six-year jail term for a violent shop robbery, had drunk eight pints of beer and was in a cantankerous mood.

When the journey ended at the isolated cottage where he lived, Wood refused to pay the £9.40p fare. Instead, leaving the cabbie waiting in his vehicle, he went into the property and emerged with a crossbow. He opened the car’s passenger door and from three feet away pointed the loaded weapon directly at the terrified driver.

Wood ordered Mr Bevis out of the taxi, but he refused and went to drive off. At that point Wood fired the crossbow and the steel tipped bolt smashed into the victim’s shoulder.

“Two inches to the left and the likely result would have been this defendant facing a murder charge,” prosecuting counsel Roy Wade was later to tell Hereford Crown Court.

It was to everyone’s good fortune the weapon, which Wood had bought ten days earlier from a Worcester gun shop, appeared to malfunction.

Home office firearms expert Stephen Nicklin told the court the £160 Commando bow fired the bolt at an angle and “unsteadily”. In full working order it had a velocity of 200ft a second (136mph) and could kill game at 70 yards.

Even so, the bolt penetrated Mr Bevis’s body through his shirt and sweater and he immediately drove off with it sticking out of him. He was to say later: “The bolt went through my left arm and I drove off fast, radioing my control office in Hereford to get help.

"I pulled the bolt out of my arm, something I now know I should not have done, but I was absolutely terrified. As I reached the main road I could feel myself losing consciousness. I thought I was dying and I passed out at the wheel.”

Mr Bevis, who was 42 at the time, spent four days in hospital and needed an operation on his injured arm. The crossbow was found in a rucksack being carried by Wood when he was arrested.

Barrington John Wood appeared before Hereford Crown Court in October 1988 charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He pleaded not guilty, claiming the crossbow went off accidentally, but was convicted by a jury.

He also admitted burglary while on the run, attempting to steal a taxi and 24 offences of passing dud cheques. Jailing him for seven-and-a-half years, Judge John Lee told Wood: “The public needs protecting from people like you.”