A Ferrari-driving millionaire was last night being quizzed by police on suspicion of shooting a solicitor in the face with a sawn-off shotgun.
Property developer Michael Chudleigh, 61, was arrested 35 minutes after a gunman walked into the lawyer’s office in the market town of Devizes, Wiltshire.
The victim, father-of-three James Ward, 58 – described as a ‘lovely’ family man who would do anything for anybody – was shot at his desk and left fighting for his life.
Last night Mr Ward’s wife Nicola Morris, who also works at his firm, was keeping a hospital bedside vigil along with their children.
Police are investigating whether Chudleigh bore a grudge against the solicitor.
It is understood that the tycoon was recently evicted when his stunning £2million converted farmhouse in the tiny village of Rowde, near Devizes, was repossessed.
The Tudor-style ‘dream home’, Kingfisher House, boasts five bedrooms, marble bathrooms, and a 62ft heated outdoor swimming pool with a thatched bar.
Shot: Solicitor James Ward who is fighting for his life after being shot in the head at his office in Wiltshire
He lived there with Francine Whale, his married business partner, and once explained the arrangement by saying he she had initially allowed him to keep his ‘very rare Ferrari’ parked there, then he moved in himself.
Neighbours claimed Chudleigh had been evicted in April after falling on hard times.One, who asked not want to be named, said they had seen armed police swooping on the property.
Four staff members were in Mr Ward’s offices on Monday afternoon, when the shooting took place. Two members of the public – including an off-duty paramedic – rushed in to try to help Mr Ward before he was airlifted to hospital.
Last night police were granted an extra 12 hours to question Chudleigh.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Saunders, from Wiltshire Police, said: ‘This clearly is a very tragic incident. The victim is currently at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol with life-threatening head injuries.
‘The man who has been arrested was found in the village of Rowde shortly afterwards.
‘He was sitting a short distance away from his car. We found him to be in possession of a weapon which we believe was the same shotgun used in the attack on Mr Ward.’
Chudleigh is well-known in the area, following a 2007 story that revealed how he bought his married lover Rachel Leigh a £100,000 Ferrari, a Rolex and jewellery, only to discover she was secretly also cheating on him with one of his friends.
On discovering the second affair, he stormed round to her home and confronted both her and her taxi driver husband.
Investigation: Forensic officers outside Morris, Goddard and Ward in Devizes, Wiltshire where the man was shot yesterday
The property developer and Francine were tied up by two masked men in October 2009 - when they stormed his home with a shotgun and stole £50,000 worth of jewellery
It is thought Mr Chudleigh was evicted and the property repossessed by the mortgage company in April
Wealthy: Mr Chudleigh, who runs Kingfisher Builders, is listed as living at the sprawling converted farm house with former business partner Francine Whale
Afterwards, Chudleigh said: ‘Rachel was the love of my life. I left my former partner Carol for her. I left my house for her.
'I left everything for her – but she has left me in bits.
‘I even proposed to her in Winchester Cathedral and gave her an £8,000 sapphire engagement ring, which was a copy of Princess Diana’s engagement ring.
'We had the most amazing sex life.’
In an unrelated 2009 incident, Chudleigh and his business partner Mrs Whale were tied up by two masked men in a shotgun robbery on their home.
The robbers made off with £50,000 worth of jewellery.
Speaking after the ordeal, the property developer said: ‘We were bound head and foot and they threatened to kill me if I did not tell them where the money was.’
Mr Ward set up his family law firm, Morris, Goddard and Ward, around 20 years ago. Two of his children are believed to be at university with a third working in Madrid.
Mr Chudleigh had a nine year affair with married blonde Rachel Leigh, right, and admitted to romping in woods behind her house while her husband David was at work
Crime scene: A police cordon surrounds the solicitor's firm in Devizes, Wiltshire, where James Ward was shot in the head
A family member said last night: ‘The kids are very close to their dad, and he has been married to Nicola for over 20 years.
'We are at a loss to understand why anyone would do this to him. He is a gentleman – that is the best word to describe him.’
A neighbour at Mr Ward’s large red-brick farmhouse in Westbury, Wiltshire, said: ‘He is just such a lovely man. The whole family is lovely. It is such a shock this has happened – he wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
Officers at work inside the building where the victim was shot at his desk with stray bullets hitting the windows
The crime scene on St John's street in the quiet market town of Devizes