Police have increased the number of patrols in rural north Cornwall in an attempt to reassure residents shocked and frightened by three murders in the area in less than a week.
A husband and wife were shot dead last Wednesday at their bungalow near Wadebridge, and on Saturday an elderly woman was found dead in a field outside her her home eight miles away. She had been suffocated.
Police tried yesterday to reassure residents between Wadebridge and Camelford on the edge of Bodmin Moor, but admitted that killers were at large. Chief Superintendent Dave Ellis, commander for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said police patrols had been increased to "raise the level of reassurance and reduce the level of fear" in the community.
Detectives revealed that Graham Fisher, 60, and his wife Carol, 53, who were shot dead at their bungalow and then savagely beaten, were probably victims of a personal attack. The couple, who were killed with a shotgun on bonfire night, may have known their attackers, detectives believe.
Mrs Fisher was shot inside the bungalow and again in the back as she tried to escape. She was shot a third time as she lay wounded on the ground outside their home. Her husband died after being shot twice inside the bungalow during the attack.
The killers bludgeoned the dead or dying couple around the heads with a blunt instrument in what the police described as a "violent and savage attack".
The motive for the killings is unknown, but police discovered an open safe in the bungalow with some cash left untouched, suggesting that the attackers' primary aim was murder rather than robbery.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Newberry, the officer heading the investigation, said: "I don't think this is a speculative burglary. I think this is more about the Fishers themselves. The sheer savagery of the attack on both of them takes this far beyond a robbery where the individuals' prime interest was in stealing property and getting away."
The couple, who ran the Perch Garage filling station next to the bungalow where they had lived for about 20 years, were described by neighbours as devoted to each other and their work. Police believe several gunmen were involved in the attack, which began as the Fishers were about to have their evening meal. Six shots were fired inside the bungalow; the living room window and a glazed kitchen door were smashed.
Mr Fisher was shot twice with an Eley 12-bore shotgun and was found dead in the hallway. His wife appeared to have been shot as she tried to escape through the back door. She was eventually killed as she lay on a path outside the house.
Police have yet to find the murder weapon, or weapons, and the gunmen removed the spent shotgun cartridges, to avoid leaving evidence for forensic scientists. Det Supt Newberry said: "It does look as though the perpetrator has been so cold and callous as to have taken them from the scene."
In the second incident, which police say at this stage is not being linked, a 74-year- old widow was suffocated and dumped in a field behind her isolated bungalow.
Joan Roddam lived with her three cats in the village of West Downs, near Delabole. She was last seen alive on Thursday morning, and her body was found on Saturday. She was wearing her nightclothes
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Dunne, leading a murder squad of more than 30 officers, said: "In all probability she knew her assailant." He said there was no apparent motive for the killing and there was no sign that her home had been broken into or ransacked.
Maurice Stacey, 76, and his 73-year-old wife May, who were friends of Mrs Roddam, said they had kept their door locked since the murder.
"We have never known anything like this happen here. The whole village is in shock," said Mrs Stacey.Reuse content