Murder of Officer Robert German: Why did a British teen and her boyfriend kill a US police officer? And who pulled the trigger?

The murder of a police officer by two runaway teenagers – one born in Britain – who then turned the gun on themselves shocked a Florida suburb. David Usborne reports from Windermere on a crime that destroyed three lives

Windermere, Florida

As far as the police are concerned, there is little left to investigate in the murder four weeks ago of one of their own in the wealthy town of Windermere just outside Orlando. He died at the hands of two desperate teenage runaways, who in a suicide pact then successively turned their single handgun on themselves. Only one part of the puzzle is unsolved: which of the two, the American boy or his English girlfriend, shot and killed the officer?

That is the narrative so far of the Homicide Division of the Orange County Sheriff’s department. For them motive is almost beside the point; no one survived to be tried. Yet this tragedy, like any other, demands explanation for those most touched by it, the families of the fallen policeman, Robert German, and of the teenagers, Brandon Goode and Alexandria Hollinghurst.

Fully fathoming events will perhaps elude them and everyone in this town of trim lawns and gracious homes adorned with blue ribbons in tribute to the fallen officer.

The tale can said to have opened in late 2012, when Alexandria, known as Alex – who moved to America from Oldham six years ago with her parents, Tom and Jane Hollinghurst – first met Brandon Goode, one year her senior. They fell into an adolescent relationship that in some ways took a familiar path: mutual obsession and accelerating alienation from everyone else around them, especially from each set of parents.

How it ended actually doesn’t surprise Corporal Duwana Pelton, the supervising detective at the Sheriff’s Office. “Unfortunately this is not an uncommon thing,” she explained in an exclusive interview with The Independent. In 14 years on the force she has had “several cases where young people have taken their lives” when they think they are in a corner, she conceded. “It is hard to rationalise. But kids nowadays, they can’t see past the moment.” What sets this one apart: they took Mr German with them.

The last act began two days before, on the Thursday, when police were called to the home of Alex’s mother in Davenport, a nearby community on the edge of Walt Disney World. She reported her daughter missing. Alex, 17, in fact returned to the house while the police officers were still there. Then the next day a similar call came from Brandon’s mother saying much the same thing. Her son was gone. And by then Alex had vanished again also.

The teenagers’ final letters to their parents as well as love notes exchanged between them in the weeks and days before, released by police after their deaths, offer a window on to the their states of mind. The love letters spoke of dreams for a future with one another far away. Brandon, who was 18, wrote in one that they should abscond to Clearwater on the Gulf of Mexico.

Alexandria's Hollinghurst relocated from Oldham to Florida Alexandria Hollinghurst relocated from Oldham to Florida “Then we steal a boat and sail down to Panama which is a 4-6 day sail,” he wrote. “We could live on the beach just me and you forever in our small little cosy house.”

But farewell letters to their families written just before they fled revealed their shared anger and desperation. To her mother Alex wrote: “If I had stayed another minute I would have painted the walls and stained the carpets with my blood, so you could clean it up,” she said. “You are a waste of space, ignorant, and a rotten [expletive]. I wish I were never born.” In his, Brandon wrote explicitly of suicide. “Please don’t be sad, this is what I want now, I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiancée (Yes we were engaged!).”

With both teenagers missing, a general alert went out and later on that Friday they were spotted by an officer in nearby Kissimmee in Brandon’s SUV. The police officer tried to talk them out of the car but Brandon jammed down the accelerator and sped away. They were gone before the police could pursue them.

The next person to see them was Officer German. It was 4am on Saturday and he found the pair sitting by the road leading from Orlando into Windermere. It should have been almost routine to bring them in to the station. But at some point he must have sensed danger and he called for back-up. They came within five minutes, but it was already too late. They found him on the road bleeding. They manoeuvred their vehicles to protect him and themselves from any more gun fire but then they heard a pop in the bushes about half a block away. A few second later, a second pop.

In a few early interviews with the press, the family of Alex voiced the belief that Brandon must have killed her. Perhaps it made the loss a tiny bit easier, moderating grief with anger. To them Brandon had always been an evil influence. In 2012, he had been charged with aggravated battery after threatening his mother in her home with an axe. This February he and Alex were pulled over on the highway by police who found marijuana and other drugs paraphernalia in their car. They were both arrested but charges against her were dropped.

Robert German was shot and killed after stopping two people Robert German was shot and killed after stopping two people (AP)
Today, however, the police are in no doubt that Alex put the gun to her own head and pulled the trigger either just before or just after Brandon did the same. “That has been determined,” said Cpl Pelton, “based on the doctor’s findings at autopsy and the positions of the bodies when they were initially located. It all went together to come to that conclusion.”  A spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the same finding.

That they were prepared to die seems clear but, beyond that, guesswork replaces detective work. Had they hoped to provoke Officer German into firing on them and when he instead fell did they then feel compelled to commit the acts of suicide themselves? Or did the horror of seeing him fall drive them to it?

Cpl Pelton has her own theory. It has to do with the pact she believes they had made to each other to be together forever, come what may. And in their minds death would not part them. It would bind them for eternity.

“These two were determined not to be separated and at some point in their contact with Officer German they came to realise that there was a possibility that they were going to be separated because there was an active warrant out on Brandon. He would have been taken into custody and she would have been returned to her family,” she said. “I think it was at that point [as they heard the back-up officers arriving] that the decision was made.”

And so, Corp Pelton is left today with the final question that seems at once urgent and redundant. Who killed Officer German? It will not be easy to answer, she conceded. “We are making an effort to try and determine this based on blood evidence and so forth but we are not sure that our results are going to give us anything. We may never know.”

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

KS1 Float Teacher

£90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor