Solicitors say ‘all contributing factors’ must be considered at an inquest into the deaths of a mother and daughter shot dead by a farmer who’d previously had his guns confiscated after being investigated by police.
Andy Petherbridge, Head of Civil Liberties at Hudgell Solicitors, has been instructed to represent Julia James, sister of 66-year-old Christine Lee, and aunt of Lucy Lee, 40, who were both shot dead by puppy farmer John Lowe in February 2014.
Lowe was jailed aged 82 for a minimum of 25 years, but died in a hospice last August, aged 86.
After the murders and subsequent criminal trial, it emerged that Lowe had been known to police and that police officers had confiscated seven licensed shotguns from his Keepers Cottage farm in May 2013.
Five of these guns were later returned to him, seven months before he shot the two women, using one of the returned weapons in the killings.
A subsequent investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now the Independent Office for Police Conduct), in 2017 found that two firearms licensing officers failed to assess the risk of returning Lowe’s guns.
One officer was dismissed following a gross misconduct inquiry and a firearms licensing supervisor retired before a hearing was held.
Inquest will consider obligations of state bodies to protect lives under Article 2
The inquest, which will be held in front of a jury at Surrey Coroner’s Court, will fall under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It means it will allow further examination than the norm and enable the jury and coroner to consider not only the circumstances surrounding Christine and Lucy’s deaths, but also the role state bodies might have played in failing to protect them.
“We very much welcome the fact that this is an Article 2 inquest. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to life and imposes obligations upon state bodies, such as the police, to take appropriate steps to safeguard lives,” said Mr Petherbridge in a statement issued on behalf of Ms James.
“We believe the extended scope of investigation must be used to find answers to many serious questions, not only around the day Christine and Lucy were killed, but also events prior.
“It is hoped that over the coming weeks all contributing factors are fully investigated to establish whether anything different could and should have been done to prevent what was the most tragic and heartbreaking loss of two people who were loved so much.”