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Care home manager convinced gunman to surrender weapon after fatal shooting

Published 28/12/2015

Essex Police have launched a murder inquiry
Essex Police have launched a murder inquiry

The manager at a care home where an 81-year-old woman was shot dead has described how she convinced the alleged gunman to hand over his weapon.

Julie Curtis, who has run De La Mer residential home for two years, said she saw the man walking towards her holding a gun.

She put her arm around the man, who had reportedly been staying at the home for one week, and pleaded for him to drop the weapon.

She told the Press Association: "I put my left arm around him and put his right arm between him and the gun and said 'please, please give me the gun', and he let go."

Essex Police provisionally identified the woman killed at the home in Walton-on-the-Naze as Rita King.

A man remains in custody on suspicion of murder. Police confirmed he is related to Ms King and was also a resident at the home.

Mrs Curtis said at first she had not realised the gun was real or if anybody had been injured.

"He came towards me with the gun, my first thought was that it wasn't real, but then my next thought was trying to stop him hurting my residents," she said.

Police said the victim was declared dead at the scene at about 9am.

No other people were in the vicinity of the alleged attack when it took place, Mrs Curtis said, adding staff had dealt with the situation "brilliantly".

She said: "It's a shock - I cannot believe it happened at a residential care home.

"Our staff have been brilliant, staying calm and speaking to the residents who live here. Under the circumstances, everyone is coping very well."

A revolver has been recovered from the scene, murder detectives said.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Werrett, who is leading the investigation, said: "At this stage we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the investigation and our inquiries are ongoing."

Douglas Carswell, the Ukip MP for the area, said he was "very shocked" by the news, adding that Walton-on-the-Naze was usually a peaceful place.

He told the Press Association: "It's very shocking. If you have got a loved one in a care home, you expect them to be safe.

"People need to know the exact circumstances of what happened, it is extremely disturbing.

"Walton-on-the-Naze is supposed to be one of the most peaceful and tranquil places there is - elderly people want to be in a peaceful and tranquil environment.

"Of all the places you expect this to happen, this is the last."

Mr Carswell said he knew De La Mer House well and it had recently been renovated.

He said: "I know the care home well, I have been several times. I know the staff are very good people and they must be fairly shocked by this."

Nearby resident John Knights said security was tight at De La Mer.

Retired financial adviser Mr Knights, whose wife Marlene runs the Bucket and Spade guest house a short distance from De La Mer House, said: "My mother had to go into De La Mer about two years ago and I can tell you that it was quite tricky to get in and out of there.

"Security was tight. You couldn't just go up to the building and get in.

"You needed a security code to get in. It had electronic key pads on the door, so to get inside you needed to know those.

"Whoever was responsible must have known the code."

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