Last picture of British scientist emerges after he was shot by stray bullet

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Matthew Wilson and Katherine Shepard on the bed where he was shot (a)
Matthew Wilson and Katherine Shepard on the bed where he was shot (a)

A British astrophysicist and his girlfriend took a selfie together just moments before he was shot dead by a stray bullet in Atlanta.

Dr Matthew Wilson, from Chertsey, Surrey, had only landed in America two days before and was asleep in bed when he died at 2am on Sunday.

The 31-year-old is understood to have been staying with his physicist girlfriend Katherine Shepard in Brookhaven, 10 miles north of Atlanta.

A new picture has emerged showing the pair relaxing on the bed with a cat just hours before the horror unfolded.

When officers arrived, they found Mr Willson lying in his bed with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Dr Wilson, who had previously been a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University, was taken to hospital, but later succumbed to his injuries.

Police have begun a murder inquiry and appealed for witnesses, describing the Briton as an "innocent victim" of "a senseless act”.

In a tribute posted on Instagram, his sister Kate Easingwood Wilson, a molecular biology PhD student based in Sweden, said: "This world is so unfair."

Ms Shepard, 25, told The Sun: “We were in bed when we heard a gun going off. At first there were just a few gunshots, then there were more and it sounded as if whoever it was had emptied out their clip.

“I turned to Matthew and said, ‘I’m going to call the cops’. His last words were, ‘Sure, I’m sure they are just messing around’.

“Then the shots started again and that’s when I heard a small explosion by the side of the bed.

“I remember a piece of the wall hitting me on the leg. I turned on the light, looked round and Matthew was slumped in front of me. I could see he had been shot in the head.”

Sergeant Jacob Kissel told WSB-TV: “This was a senseless act - this was an innocent victim. She and her boyfriend were laying in bed. He was here visiting from England. He was visiting a loved one. He had just flown into the Atlanta area.

“We lean on the public to understand that this is a tragic event, and we hope that they may come forward with any information they may have.”

Dr Wilson had worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University for two years, having also worked at the University of Liège in Belgium.

Tributes have been paid to Dr Willson from his alma mater, the University of Exeter.

A spokesperson for the university said in a statement: “Matthew Willson was a former PhD student at the University of Exeter and much-loved member of our astrophysics team.

“We have been informed about his tragic death in the US and our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues. We are offering support to colleagues at the University who will also want to commemorate his life.

Sgt Jake Kissel from the Brookhaven Police Department said Dr Wilson’s death seemed to be the result of a “reckless discharge”.

He said Dr Willson was in town from England visiting loved ones.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting family of a British man following his death in the US, and are in contact with US authorities.”

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