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Partner of crossbow murder victim slams lack of curbs on ‘lethal weapon’ sales

Dave Higgens, PA
·4-min read

The partner of a man who was killed with a crossbow by a neighbour who lay in wait for him at his home has said it is “unbelievable” that ownership of “such a lethal, medieval weapon” remains unregulated.

Laura Sugden was speaking after a coroner said he is writing to Home Secretary Priti Patel about his concerns over crossbow sales following Shane Gilmer’s death.

Mr Gilmer, 30, died after his next next-door neighbour, Anthony Lawrence, broke into his house in the village of Southburn, near Driffield, East Yorkshire, in January 2018, and shot both him and Ms Sugden, who survived the attack.

Lawrence was later found dead in a camper van in North Yorkshire.

Shane Gilmer death
Anthony Lawrence was found dead after killing Shane Gilmer with a crossbow (Humberside Police/PA)

On Friday, an inquest jury in Hull concluded that Mr Gilmer was unlawfully killed.

Speaking outside court, Ms Sugden said: “Shane was murdered in the most cruel and terrifying way imaginable.

“It is unbelievable that the sale and ownership of such a lethal, medieval weapon remains unregulated in our modern society.

“There are no laws in place to help prevent crossbows from falling into the hands of twisted and dangerous individuals like Anthony Lawrence.”

Ms Sugden, who was pregnant at the time of the attack and has since had another daughter, said: “This lethal weapon has been forgotten about in the Government’s strategy on tackling gun and knife crime.

“That’s why today, in loving memory of Shane, and to honour our beautiful daughter that he never got to meet, I am launching a campaign to call for legislation governing crossbows to be brought in line with firearms laws.

“Over the coming weeks I will be speaking with MPs and the Home Secretary to see what can be done to reform crossbows laws.

“I’d like to thank my family, friends and legal team for their unwavering support through such a truly harrowing experience.”

Ms Sugden, 30, said: “Shane was a loving partner and a wonderful dad and step-dad.

“He is missed every day by me and the rest of his family. It was clear from his final words how much he loved us all and I hope he knew how much we all loved him.”

The week-long inquest heard that Lawrence had broken into the house next door to his through the loft space and shot Mr Gilmer in his arm and torso after waiting for the couple to return from an evening out.

The bolt damaged Mr Gilmer’s liver and kidney before embedding in his spine.

Shane Gilmer inquest
Shane Gilmer was able to tell 999 operators what had happened to him, but died on arrival at hospital (Scala/PA)

Ms Sugden told the inquest that she went upstairs and found Lawrence in her daughter’s bedroom, holding a crossbow.

She said Lawrence brought the already injured Mr Gilmer into the room and then shot her.

She managed to pull the arrow out of her head but Lawrence took it from her and pushed it into her neck.

She told the jury that she pleaded with Lawrence and manged to escape as Mr Gilmer told her to get help, saying: “Keep you and baby safe.”

The couple were taken to Hull Royal Infirmary but Mr Gilmer, who had managed to tell 999 operators what happened to him, died on arrival.

Ms Sugden told the inquest that Lawrence had attacked her and Mr Gilmer after receiving an eviction notice.

She had reported Lawrence to the police and to the letting agency after the smell of cannabis coming through a vent into a bedroom had exacerbated her daughter’s asthma.

She said Lawrence, who had previously threatened Mr Gilmer with an axe, told her as she pleaded with him that he had been listening to the couple’s conversations for a year.

Listening equipment was later found in his house.

East Yorkshire senior coroner Professor Paul Marks told the hearing: “I am most concerned that crossbows of this nature and danger can be bought in an unregulated fashion by anyone over the age of 18 and are not controlled as shotguns and firearms.

“It is my intention to issue a report to the Home Secretary to this end.”

The couple’s daughter – Ella-Faith – will be three in the summer.

Ms Sugden has one daughter from a previous relationship and Mr Gilmer left two daughters from a previous relationship.