Man turned stolen gun on police officer after shooting ex-wife dead, court told

A man looked “cold and professional” as he turned a stolen rifle on an armed police officer after shooting dead his ex-wife, mother-in-law and pet dog, a court heard.

Police Sergeant Thomas Milne said he believed Craig Savage was going to shoot him when he saw him turn and “steadily” point an M4 semi-automatic at him after being confronted in the street, jurors were told on Tuesday.

Moments before, the 35-year-old had calmly left a house in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, East Sussex, after shooting Michelle Savage, 32, Heather Whitbread, 53, and dog Zeus, in an “execution”-style killing at almost point blank range on March 16, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Police at the scene in St Leonards, East Sussex
Police at the scene in St Leonards, East Sussex

Sergeant Milne was one of five officers called to respond to reports of a man on the loose with the rifle after the deputy manager of a nearby firing range had been robbed at gunpoint.

As he and some of the uniformed team arrived in an unmarked police car, they heard on the police radio that Savage – who they were told had links to the address – had been seen shooting the window of the house.

CCTV shows him leaving the property and walking down the road, gun in hand, before Sgt Milne and Police Constable Jayan Shah appear behind him shouting: “Armed police. Stop.”

Sgt Milne, a firearms commander who has worked for Sussex Police for nine years, said: “He turned around and got down and as he did so he brought the rifle up to point at me.”

He said Savage locked eyes on him, reacting in a “professional manner” as though he was “military officer”, adding: “When the male aimed the gun at me I believed he was going to shoot me.

“He wasn’t making unnecessary movements. He was cold and professional in the way he moved.

“I didn’t see or hear any shots.”

Meanwhile he was shouting to colleagues “get down” and for passing drivers to “move”, the court heard.

Pc Shah told the court he dived for cover as he saw Savage turn 180 degrees to face the officers, adding: “I was completely convinced he had fired a single round in our direction.”

There was a lot of noise from passing traffic so he said he could not hear if there were any shots, but said Savage’s “reactions were quick” and the way he handled the gun “seemed professional”.

He added: “At the time I was 95% convinced. To this day I’m unsure if he shot at us.”

It was “too dangerous” to enter the darkened car park into which Savage had disappeared until backup arrived, the court heard.

Savage, of no fixed address, denies two counts of murder and possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger life, but admits robbery.

Mrs Savage’s sister Raven Whitbread, who was present during the incident while seven months pregnant, was due to give evidence on Tuesday, but this was postponed due to technical difficulties with a live video link.

A juror was discharged and replaced after the first day due to illness. Now 10 women and two men sit on the jury.

The trial continues.