England

Surrey Police apology over John Lowe double gun murders

John Lowe Image copyright Surrey Police
Image caption Dog breeder John Lowe told police officers he wanted the women put down

Surrey Police has apologised over its "flawed" decision to return guns to an 82-year-old man who went on to murder his partner and her daughter.

Christine Lee, 66, and 40-year-old Lucy Lee were shot by John Lowe at his puppy farm in Farnham in February.

His shotguns and licence had been seized by the police in March 2013 but were returned to him four months later.

After the hearing, Christine Lee's daughter, Stacy Banner, said Surrey Police had "put the gun in his hands".

"The shotgun was one of seven that had been returned to him by the police only months before he used it to kill," she said.

"John Lowe pulled the trigger but it was the Surrey Police who put the gun in his hands."

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Media captionAsst Chief Constable Stuart Cundy: "Initial reports say the decision to hand back guns was flawed"

Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Cundy from Surrey Police, said two reports by other forces had found the decision to return the guns was "flawed".

He said: "Whilst the full investigation into this matter remains ongoing, in light of these early findings Surrey Police has spoken with members of Christine and Lucy Lee's family to apologise for this."

Three Surrey Police employees were now subject to a gross misconduct investigation, he added.

"As a result of the two independent reports, the IPCC have decided this will now be an independent investigation," he said.

Image copyright INS
Image caption Christine Lee and her daughter "did not stand a chance", Stacy Banner said

Outside court, Mrs Banner said 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," she said.

Mrs Banner called for the way gun licensing decisions are made to be changed.

"Licensing cannot be left entirely up to the police," she said.

"There needs to be thorough and regular multi-agency assessments for would-be gun-holders.

"And the cost of a shotgun licence needs to be significantly increased."

IPCC commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "Two women have tragically lost their lives, and their family and friends deserve to know the circumstances in which the guns were returned to Mr Lowe.

"It also is in the interests of the wider public that Surrey Police's decision-making in these circumstances is independently scrutinised."

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

Surrey Police said it had taken steps to ensure its firearms licensing policy and procedures were in line with national best practice.

The force is also reviewing other cases in which firearms have been returned to people.

Image copyright INS
Image caption Lucy Lee was shot twice after she went back to confront Lowe

Kevin Hurley, Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, insisted it was "very difficult" to get a firearms licence.

When asked for his reaction to the family's statement, he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I understand that when someone has lost family members they want to apportion blame and they will make statements they think are appropriate.

"I have no issue with family members making that kind of statement because they are upset, they are grieving and it is clear that police failed in this case."

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