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Shotgun murderer set to die in jail


John Lowe will be sentenced for shooting his partner and her daughter dead at his puppy farm

John Lowe will be sentenced for shooting his partner and her daughter dead at his puppy farm

John Lowe will be sentenced for shooting his partner and her daughter dead at his puppy farm

An elderly dog breeder is likely to die in jail after he was sentenced to at least 25 years for shooting his partner and her daughter dead at his puppy farm.

John Lowe, 82, was found guilty of murdering 66-year-old Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy Lee, 40, with his shotgun at his home near Farnham, Surrey, in February.

Sentencing Lowe at Guildford Crown Court, Mr Justice Singh praised the "extraordinary courage" of Lucy Lee after she returned to face her killer following a frantic 999 call on the day of the shootings.

Lowe, flanked by three security officers, winked at his supporters in the public gallery as he was led from the dock.

Stacy Banner, whose mother and sister were killed by Lowe, wept in the courtroom after the sentence was handed down.

Mr Justice Singh said Lowe "lost his temper" when he took out his shotgun on February 23 to kill Christine Lee.

"She died of a single shot wound to the chest fired at close range from above," the judge said.

"Lucy was able to use her mobile phone to make a frantic and desperate call to the emergency services on 999.

"She said that you had shot her mum and that she feared that you were going to shoot her as well.

"Nevertheless, in an act of extraordinary courage, she went back to see if there was anything she could do to help her mother."

Mr Justice Singh said that, having heard the evidence, he had come to the "clear conclusion" that Lowe intended to kill Mrs Lee and her daughter.

"You are a man well used to handling and firing shotguns," he said.

"On the evidence heard at the trial, I have formed the view that having killed Christine Lee, you shot Lucy Lee in the back of her head after she made the 999 call, then reloaded your gun and pursued her outside the cottage, with the intention of making sure that this time she died."

The judge said the death of Lowe's long-term partner Susan Wilson in the spring of 2013 "clearly had a traumatic effect" on him, while the murders of the two women have had a "terrible and continuing impact" on their relatives.

In a statement read to the court by prosecutor Mark Dennis QC, Ms Banner said she was "haunted" by her mother and sister's murders and her grief "came crashing down" when she had to identify their bodies.

"Every time I close my eyes I see them," she said. "I have nightmares. I'm haunted by what John did to them."

In another statement read by the prosecutor, Christine Lee's sister, Julia James, said she felt "physically and emotionally weak" since the deaths of her two relatives.

"Christine and Lucy were lovely people - kind, witty and generous," she said. "I miss them more than I can say."

Speaking outside court, Ms Banner said: "I'm relieved it's over. He's never getting out."

Lowe, dressed in a plaid jacket, shirt and tie, with his white hair combed back, grinned and waved at his supporters in the public gallery as he entered the dock.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment for a minimum of 25 years for the murders, and a sentence of 10 years for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, to run concurrently.

Following the sentencing, a woman in the public gallery shouted to the court: "What about all the animals he's killed?"

Ms Banner has criticised Surrey Police after it emerged that a number of the Lowe's guns were returned to him just months before he carried out the shootings.

Three Surrey Police employees are being investigated for gross misconduct over the decision to return the weapons and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an investigation.

Lowe, who has severe arthritis in his hands, lived at Keepers Cottage Stud puppy farm for 45 years and the court heard he had been handling shotguns since the age of seven.

He met Christine Lee 25 years ago when she went to buy a horse for one of her daughters.

They later started a relationship despite him living at the stud with his long-term partner Ms Wilson. After she died from cancer in March 2013, he moved Christine in, with Lucy later joining them.

On February 23 this year, armed police arrived at the farm in the Surrey stockbroker belt and found Christine and Lucy dead.

The court heard that Lowe told officers the women "treated me like s***", accusing them of starving him and trying to put him in a home so they could take his land.

He told one officer: "They had to be put down. There was nothing else I could do. I have had terrible problems with Christine. They have not let me eat."

It was only later that he began to tell police that their deaths were accidental.

He claimed that Christine died after they struggled over his shotgun when he announced he was going to put down some of their dogs. He then claimed Lucy died after the gun accidentally went off twice.

Surrey Police released audio of a dramatic 999 call made by Lucy before she was killed, in which she told the operator: ''I don't know whether I'm going to be alive if I go back in there. He shot my mum."

The force has since apologised to the family after a number of Lowe's guns were confiscated in March last year following an allegation that threats to kill had been made, but then returned to him four months later.

After Lowe was found guilty on Wednesday, Ms Banner said: "John Lowe pulled the trigger but it was the Surrey Police who put the gun in his hands. Surrey Police should not be allowed to escape their responsibility for these deaths."

Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Cundy said two reports indicated the decision was "flawed" and vowed to "co-operate fully" with the IPCC investigation.

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