Carol and Graham Fisher rarely strayed far from their bungalow and neighbouring business, a petrol station on an isolated stretch of road in north Cornwall.
The husband and wife had lived and worked at the Perch Garage site for the past 20 years and recently celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. They seldom left their home because of concerns that they would be burgled, according to people in the nearby town of Wadebridge.
But as the Fishers were preparing to sit down for their evening meal on Wednesday, their worst fears were realised when a gunman, or gunmen, broke into their property.
The details are unclear, but it appears that shots were fired inside the bungalow before Mr Fisher, 60, was shot dead at close range in the hallway. His wife, who police said was "running for her life", was gunned down on the forecourt of the filling station.
Police believe the noise of gunshots may have been masked by exploding fireworks at nearby bonfire parties. The body of Mrs Fisher, 53, was discovered the following morning by a bus driver returning along the A39 after delivering children to school.
Friends and neighbours of the couple were in shock yesterday, while police warned the rural community that "a very dangerous person or persons" was on the loose, and urged residents in the Wadebridge area to be "alert and on their guard".
Detective Superintendent Stuart Newberry, the Devon and Cornwall police officer heading the inquiry, said: "They must have been absolutely terrified and fighting for their lives. It does look as though Mrs Fisher was trying to run away and she was fatally wounded at that point."
Det Supt Newberry said: "It is not clear if we are dealing with one perpetrator or more than one. But a number of shots had been fired inside the bungalow and outside. It is not clear what the motive was at this stage."
Police have yet to establish whether anything was stolen.
The Fishers were last seen alive by a couple who had a business meeting with them at the petrol station, which ended at about 6.40pm.
Gill Wild, from Wadebridge, who had known the couple for 14 years, said yesterday: "They didn't have time for anyone else. It was just them, and they were very happy. Their life was the garage. They had never been away or had a holiday, and they never really strayed from their bungalow. They didn't like to leave the place for long because they were worried about break-ins. I think they kept a lot of money there as security for the garage."
A team of about 60 police officers is working on the case. Forensic scientists are searching the premises for weapons owned by Mr Fisher, who was a firearms holder.
The shooting is the second violent incident in the area in 18 months and follows the unsolved murder of Les Bate. Mr Bate, 71, was battered to death during a robbery at his farmhouse home at St Kew, five miles from the garage where Mr and Mrs Fisher were shot.Reuse content