A gunman, who killed himself in a cemetery after shooting dead an off-duty policeman, was an unpaid worker at a gun club who started shooting wildly at neighbours after disputes over noise and parking, acquaintances said yesterday.
Peter Reeve, 64, was found dead yesterday 40 miles from Clacton-on-Sea where he pursued neighbours before he turned the gun on PC Ian Dibell when he tried to intervene.
Reeve's body was found yesterday morning inside a graveyard in the village of Writtle, near Chelmsford, where it is understood a member of his family was buried. The area around All Saints Church was cordoned off yesterday, with a forensic tent erected near the western edge of the churchyard.
Neighbours and acquaintances yesterday painted a picture of a man who was on medication for depression and a heart condition and who had become convinced that a couple living in the same block as him in Clacton-on-Sea were up to no good. Stuart Griggs, 40, a neighbour, said he had initially seemed a perfectly "normal bloke" but started becoming very paranoid about a couple who had moved in downstairs. "He came up to me a few times and said: 'Something's going on downstairs, I think they're printing money'," said Mr Griggs. "Next thing he said he thought drugs were involved. I told him he was wrong but he seemed to become obsessed with it."
Mr Griggs said he witnessed the gun attack from the window of his home. "I saw him chasing the couple into the street, firing wildly at the boyfriend." The man, named locally as Trevor Marshall, 48, suffered leg injuries. Mr Marshall's ex-wife, Pauline, told reporters she did not know of Reeve. "We are so grateful to the police officer. He is clearly a hero who saved Trevor's life."
PC Dibell has two brothers who also work for the Essex force. In a statement, his family said yesterday they were devastated by his death. "We are immensely proud of Ian and the courage he showed. We take some comfort from his bravery."
Police said last night they had spoken to PC Dibell's son. It is understood he alerted his father about the dispute on the street outside. His father was shot when he went to intervene. Essex Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said: "It is an extreme set of circumstances that a man opens fire with a gun clearly firing at more than one person and shooting an off-duty police constable dead. There must have been some sort of catalyst that prompted the scale of a tragedy of this kind."
Officers launched a huge operation on Monday to find Reeve who was "largely" unknown to the police and did not have a gun licence.
Reeve used to work as an unpaid handyman at the Clacton gun club where he chatted to competitors at clay pigeon shooting events, according to the London Evening Standard.
"He had a troubled past, he suffered from depression. You could tell from his mood swings if he was taking his medication," club owner Andy Riva told the newspaper. "If you talked to him he was a really nice gentleman. But he would lose it sometimes when he was in one of his moods. He did say things against people he had trouble with, he would say things like, 'He's going down'.
"He would talk about trouble he had with his neighbours and the noise, he said he could not sleep at night. No one took his threats seriously."
The police were alerted by a member of the public to the body in the graveyard. Reeve had been shot in the head and a gun was found next to his body. Ralph Bray, a local parish councillor who lives close to the churchyard where Reeve's body was found, said: "I believe he had relatives in the village but no one is sure what the relationship was."
David Cameron led the tributes to PC Dibell. "He was off-duty but went to help people in a totally selfless and typical way that our police officers do all of the time," he said.