Police failures contributed to mother and daughter’s murder

Numerous failures by police contributed to the murder of a mother and daughter shot dead by a puppy farmer more than five years ago, a jury inquest has ruled.

Jurors listed five failings by Surrey Police and its Firearms Licensing Department that “more than minimally contributed to” the women’s deaths.

Christine Lee, 66, and Lucy Lee, 40, were killed by 82-year-old John Lowe at Keepers Cottage Stud, Farnham, in February 2014.

Christine Lee
Christine Lee

He was convicted of murder later that year and jailed for life with a minimum of 25 years.

Lowe died in a hospice last August, aged 86.

Following his trial at Guildford Crown Court, it emerged the shotgun Lowe used had been confiscated by police but handed back seven months before the murders.

This was despite an allegation he had threatened to kill Lucy Lee’s sister Stacy Banner with a gun in March 2013.

Stacy Banner
Stacy Banner

After more than 15 hours of deliberation the inquest jury delivered their verdict on Friday afternoon.

In their written conclusion, finding Ms Lee and her daughter were unlawfully killed, the inquest jury detailed the police failings.

They said Surrey Police failed to have a system in place “to ensure that the decision whether or not to return a shotgun certificate and shotgun to a certificate holder following removal pending a criminal investigation was made or approved by a senior police officer”.

John Lowe
John Lowe

The force’s Firearms Licensing Department failed to “investigate sufficiently” whether it was safe to return the shotguns to Lowe following the threat to kill allegation in March 2013, the jury said.

They also ruled the department failed to “consider all the evidence and information available to it” and failed “to apply the correct standard of proof” when deciding whether to revoke or return Lowe’s shotguns and licence.

A final failure saw the department fail to recommend the revocation of Lowe’s shotgun licence in July 2013 and the consequential failure by Surrey Police to revoke the certificate, the jury ruled.