The Conservative leader of a Norfolk council is believed to have shot and killed his wife with her own shotgun before killing himself, police said today.
The bodies of Keith Johnson and his wife Andrea, 44, were found dead outside their bungalow near the coastal town of Cromer, where the 58-year-old was a former mayor.
Mrs Johnson had four legally held guns registered at their address and one of them was believed to have been used in the shooting yesterday afternoon.
A neighbour said that Mr Johnson, a long-serving councillor, appeared “depressed” on the day before the double-shooting in rural Roughton, near Cromer.
Neighbours spoke of him carrying out his paper round in shorts despite sub-zero temperatures.
Derek Houlston, whose garden backs on to the couple’s property, said: “We saw him doing his paper round – which she got him to do to keep fit – on Saturday and he seemed really depressed. I said hello but he just kept his head down and didn’t respond.”
A flag was at half-mast outside the council offices of North Norfolk District Council where Mr Johnson was elected leader earlier this year. He had helped organise the town’s Christmas market at the weekend.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he knew the couple well and was “deeply shocked” by the news.
He added: “I’ve known Keith for some years through his work on the council, we’ve always been on very good terms despite the fact I’m Lib Dem and he was a Conservative. I didn’t know Andrea beyond seeing them both at civic events but she was always good for a friendly chat. I share the community’s sense of disbelief and my heart goes out to all of their family and friends.”
Sheila Oxtoby, the council’s chief executive, said: “I am sure that everyone in North Norfolk and many much further afield will share the deep sense of loss that I and all my colleagues at the district council feel at this terrible news. Keith was a great champion for North Norfolk and a great friend, and he worked tirelessly for the council.”
The couple had been together for 18 years and married in 2004. They were not believed to have children but Mr Johnson had a family from a previous marriage.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Guy said: “We are working through a number of lines of inquiry and, as yet, we have not spoken to anybody who witnessed the incident itself. It is not clear what the motive was but neither Mr or Mrs Johnson had any previous contact with the police. If anybody has any information about the incident itself or any possible reason for it, we would urge them to come forward.”
Detective Superintendent Peter Hornby, who is leading the inquiry into the deaths, said: “Whilst I understand this is a very shocking incident for the neighbours of the two people involved, I can reassure them that, at this stage, we are not looking for anyone else in connection with it.” Post-mortem tests are being carried out.