Man 'executed' wife, mother-in-law and dog, court hears

Craig Savage arriving at a previous hearing
Image caption Craig Savage had bombarded his estranged wife with text messages and threatened her with revenge porn, the court heard

A man shot his estranged wife, mother-in-law and pet dog with a stolen semi-automatic rifle in an execution-style killing, a court has heard.

Craig Savage, 35, is accused of killing Michelle Savage, 32, and Heather Whitbread, 53, in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, East Sussex, on 16 March.

Mrs Savage had been shot six times and her mother around seven times in a "planned execution", Lewes Crown Court was told.

Mr Savage denies two counts of murder.

He also denies possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Benjamin Aina, prosecuting, said: "He carried out the shooting because he had been rejected by his wife. They had separated about a month before the shooting and he was desperate for a reconciliation.

"One of the entry wounds on each woman was accompanied by a muzzle mark. This indicates that the firearm was pressed fairly close to each woman and discharged in an execution-type manner."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The two women were shot dead at the house in St Leonards in March

The court heard Mr Savage, of no fixed address, had bombarded his estranged wife with text messages, threatened her with revenge porn, and had poured paint on family cars.

About a week before the killings, on Mrs Savage's birthday, he slashed the tyres on her car, the jury was told.

Mr Savage was described as a "very controlling person" with the "attitude of a teenager" during their nine-year relationship.

He would bombard his wife with phone calls and texts, wanting to know where she was and who she was with, Mr Aina said.

He was also "horrible" to her dog and the "last straw in the relationship" was when he was found "pinning" it to the ground, jurors were told.

'Cop-assisted suicide'

Following the break-up, Mr Savage was accused by his wife of trying to "control every last interaction", and she repeatedly said she did not want to see him anymore.

The court heard he threatened to kill himself, wrongly accused her of giving him a sexually transmitted disease and demanded she hand over lingerie and sex toys so that he could burn them.

Mr Aina said Mr Savage's defence was likely to be that the shooting was a "complete accident" and the gun went off accidentally after he tripped during a struggle with Mrs Savage.

Mr Savage claimed he had planned to kidnap her and have police shoot him in front of her in a "cop-assisted suicide", Mr Aina told the court.

The jury was told Mrs Savage's grandmother and her younger, pregnant sister were hiding in the house to escape the shooting and were not hurt.

The court was told after the shooting, Mr Savage pointed the rifle at a police officer, but the mechanism had become jammed and the gun did not fire.

Mr Savage has pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a firearm.

The jury was shown the M4 semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle and told that Savage admitted robbery after stealing it "by force" with ammunition from a firing range.

The case continues.

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