John Lowe guilty of Farnham puppy farm murders

John Lowe
Image caption Dog breeder John Lowe told police he wanted both women "put down"

A man has been found guilty of murdering his partner and her daughter after he shot them dead at his puppy farm in Surrey.

John Lowe, 82, from Farnham, denied the murders and a firearms charge, claiming the deaths of Christine Lee, and Lucy Lee were "a terrible accident".

But jurors at Guildford Crown Court heard he wanted the women "put down".

Police confiscated guns from Lowe nearly a year before the shootings but later returned them.

The firearms were taken by officers from Surrey Police in March 2013 after Christine Lee's other daughter, Stacy Banner, reported she had been threatened by Lowe.

Ms Banner condemned the decision to give Lowe his weapons back.

Speaking outside court after the verdict, she said: "John Lowe pulled the trigger but it was Surrey Police that put the gun in his hand."

The force apologised and said it commissioned two independent reports into the return of the guns, which both indicated "the decision was flawed and did not meet national standards".

It also revealed three police staff members had misconduct notices issued to them over the matter.

'Scene of carnage'

During the trial, jurors heard a frantic 999 call from Lucy Lee, 40, who told the operator: "I don't know if I'm going to be alive if I go back in there. He shot my mum."

Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, said police were met with a "scene of carnage" when they arrived at the farm in February.

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Image caption Christine Lee was described as a "much-loved" mother, auntie and grandmother

The body of 66-year-old Christine Lee was found inside the main building, while the body of Lucy Lee was discovered outside, near the animal pens.

The mother had been shot in the chest from less than a foot away and her daughter received a fatal shot to the back of the head, according to post-mortem tests.

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Media captionAsst Ch Const Stuart Cundy: "Initial reports say the decison to hand back guns was flawed"

'Innocent lives'

Talking about Lucy's actions on that day, Ms Banner said: "The courage of her final words inspire me. She was so very brave. I am trying hard to draw on her strength and live up to her high standard as I move forward with my life but it is hard.

"John Lowe brutally and deliberately murdered my mum and my sister by shooting each of them at close range with a shotgun - they did not stand a chance.

"My life stopped when their lives ended on February 23 this year."

Following the verdict, Christine Lee's sister, Julia James, said: "John Lowe will never pay for taking the innocent lives of my sister Christine and my niece Lucy Lee.

"Christine and Lucy put the needs of others first, my sister had a heart of gold and was full of life. Lucy believed in protecting life and being kind to others."

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Media captionThe jury heard a 999 call by victim Lucy Lee: "He's just shot my mum"

She added: "I witnessed on numerous occasions how caring Christine and Lucy had been towards Lowe. It has been heart-breaking listening to his lies."

Lowe told the court he never intended to kill the women and his gun went off three times accidentally due to the "ludicrous" way he was holding it because of his bad arthritis.

He had a "love-hate relationship" with the women and felt they were trying to control his affairs, it was said.

After the shooting, Lowe told PC Richard McEwan: "They had to be put down, there was nothing else I could do.

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Image caption Lucy Lee was praised for her "extraordinary courage"

"I have had terrible problems with Christine. They wouldn't let me eat."

Another officer, PC Christopher Fairclough, was also told by Lowe: "I am not sorry. I am out of the problem. They are causing me problems every day."

Lowe also killed four dogs and following his arrest said to police: "I am sorry I put the dogs down but I couldn't leave them to anyone else to look after."

Jaswant Narwal, chief crown prosecutor for Crown Prosecution Service South East, said: "Anyone involved in this case cannot fail to have been moved by the extraordinary courage shown by Lucy Lee.

"On the day of the killings, she called the emergency services to tell them that her mother had just been shot and that, despite the clear threat to her own life, she would be going back for her.

"Tragically, Lowe killed her after she returned to the scene."

A police spokeswoman said: "Whilst the full investigation into this matter remains on-going, in light of these early findings we have spoken with members of Christine and Lucy Lee's family to apologise for this."

The IPCC said it was investigating the decision to return the guns to Lowe.

Lowe will be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on 31 October.

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