Puppy farm shootings: John Lowe murdered my family, but police 'put the gun in his hands', says relative

Surrey Police says three officers being investigated over decision to return guns to puppy farmer despite warnings

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The Independent Online

The daughter of a woman shot dead by a puppy farmer has accused police of "putting the gun in the hands" of a murderer.

John Lowe, 82, from Farnham, was convicted of shooting dead his partner, Christine Lee, 66, and her daughter, Lucy Lee, 40, at his puppy farm in Surrey by a jury at Guildford Crown Court on Wednesday.

The bodies of the two women were found at Keepers Cottage Stud in February. Four dogs had also been killed.

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Stacy Banner, Christine Lee's daughter, said: "John 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.

"The shotgun was one of seven that had been returned to him by the police only months before he used it kill. He held a shotgun license despite the police being repeatedly warned by me and others about the danger he posed to society, allowing him to kill and kill again.

"John Lowe pulled the trigger but it was the Surrey Police who 'put the gun in his hands'. The Surrey Police should not be allowed to escape their responsibility for these deaths."

Surrey Police officers attended the property of 82-year-old John Lowe after he shot his partner and her daughter

Surrey Police said three of its employees are being investigated for gross misconduct over the decision to return Lowe's guns before the shooting.

In a statement, it said: "We commissioned two independent reports by firearms licensing experts from Hampshire Constabulary and North Yorkshire Police. The initial findings from both reports indicate the decision was flawed and did not meet national standards.

"Whilst the full investigation into this matter remains ongoing, in light of these early findings we have spoken with members of Christine and Lucy Lee's family to apologise for this."

Surrey Police Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Cundy spoke after John Lowe was convicted of the murders of Christine and Lucy Lee

During the trial, Lowe, a dog breeder, had claimed that the deaths were a "terrible accident" after a struggle over the gun as he went to destroy some dogs. He had denied two counts of murder and a firearms charge.

But jurors heard that he had told police he had "put down" the two women because they had been "giving me s*** for weeks".

Read more: Relative of women killed at puppy farm speaks of her grief
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They also heard that Lucy made a "desperate" 999 call to police saying that Lowe had killed her mother before telling the operator that she was going back to confront him.

She was then shot twice, with Lowe reloading the .410 calibre double-barrelled weapon between shots.

Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, said that police officers were met with a "scene of carnage" when they arrived at the farm.

The body of Christine Lee was found inside the main building, and Lucy Lee was discovered outside near the animal pens.

Speaking after the verdict, Christine Lee's sister, Julia James, said: "John Lowe will never pay for taking the innocent lives of my sister, Christine, and my niece, Lucy Lee. Christine was a mother, auntie and grandmother and was much loved.

"Christine and Lucy put the needs of others first. My sister had a heart of gold and was full of life. Lucy believed in protecting life and being kind to others.

"I witnessed on numerous occasions how caring Christine and Lucy had been towards Lowe. It has been heart-breaking listening to his lies.

"We thank the police and everyone involved in this case for their help."

Lowe will be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on 31 October.

Additional reporting by PA