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Tributes paid to ‘much loved’ British scientist killed by stray bullet as he lay in bed in US

A British astrophysicist who was killed by a stray bullet to the head during a trip to the US state of Georgia was “much loved”, his former university has said.

Dr Matthew Willson, 31, appeared to have been randomly shot on 16 January after the “reckless discharge” of a weapon in a neighbouring block of flats in Brookhaven, a city near Atlanta, according to police.

He was from Chertsey, Surrey, and was visiting his girlfriend.

Dr Willson’s alma mater, the University of Essex, said he was a “much-loved member of our astrophysics team”.

‘Our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues’

In a statement, the university said: “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.”

What happened to Dr Matthew Willson?

Officers said they received several emergency calls at about 2am local time on Sunday with reports of multiple shots being fired from a block of flats in the 3600 block of Buford Highway in Brookhaven.

As they checked the area, they were called about Dr Willson’s shooting in a flat close by – the 3100 block of Clairmont Road.

Sergeant Jake Kissel, from Brookhaven Police, told BBC Radio Surrey that officers arrived at the flat to find Mr Willson’s girlfriend giving him first aid.

‘Reckless discharge’ led to tragic death

Dr Willson had suffered a single gunshot wound to the head and he was taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries.

“This incident appears to be a random act involving individuals participating in the reckless discharge of firearm(s) which led to the tragic death of Dr Willson,” police said.

Officers have asked the public for help to find those responsible.

Tips leading to arrests could receive a cash reward through Crime Stoppers Atlanta.

The Foreign Office confirmed that it is supporting Dr Willson’s family and are in contact with authorities in the US.



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