Life sentence for Hartshorne-Jones who shot wife dead at home

Peter Hartshorne-Jone has been given a life sentencing for killing his wife Silke at their home in Barham last year.

Peter Hartshorne-Jone has been given a life sentencing for killing his wife Silke at their home in Barham last year. - Credit: Archant/Facebook/Suffolk Constabulary

A mentally ill gun dealer who shot his wife and left her to die at their Suffolk farmhouse while their eight-year-old twin sons were in their bedrooms has been given a life sentence. 

Sentencing 52-year-old Peter Hartshorne-Jones for the manslaughter of his solicitor wife, Judge Martyn Levett said he had “cruelly” killed her while she was in bed in her pyjamas and posed “absolutely no threat to him whatsoever.”

Peter Hartshorne-Jones has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife at their home in Barham. 

Peter Hartshorne-Jones has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife at their home in Barham. - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

He said Hartshorne-Jones had made a deliberate journey from one end of the house to the other with a loaded gun and had shot his wife at point-blank range after taking off the safety catch.

He had then shot her a second time “just to make sure she was dead.”

Judge Levett said Hartshorne-Jones had answered no comment in police interviews about what happened on the night in question and had also declined to give an explanation for the killing in court.

Judge Levett said that one of the couple’s sons had gone into his mother’s room from an adjoining bedroom after hearing a “clattering” noise and found her on the floor.

He’d checked to see if she was breathing and believing she’d been attacked by an intruder he had gone to fetch Hartshorne-Jones, who was having his breakfast, and told him to call an ambulance.

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During the sentencing hearing, the judge referred to the ever increasing prevalence of violence against women in domestic settings and said the SafeLives charity had claimed that each year 100,000 people in the UK were at high or imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured because of domestic violence.

He said that on average seven women a month were killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and since Silke Hartshorne-Jones’ death in May last year, 120 women had been killed.

He said that since the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in London in March this year as she walked home at night a further 80 women had been killed by men.

The judge said the case had also brought into sharp focus an array of topical issues about which the public were concerned including the availability and use of weapons which kill, particularly firearms, and the impact the Coronavirus pandemic had had on people’s mental health. 

He said Hartshorne-Jones had only partially responded to treatment since the killing and presented a danger to the public.

He said he would have to serve a minimum of eight years of the life sentence before he could be considered for release by the parole board.

He directed that Hartshorne-Jones should be detained in a psychiatric clinic until his treatment is completed before being moved to jail, as part of a “hybrid” sentence.

Judge Levett praised the police and paramedics for the way they responded to the traumatic situation they were presented with on their arrival at the scene of the shooting.

Mrs Hartshorne-Jones, 42, was taken to Ipswich Hospital in May last year after being shot twice in the chest at the couple’s 17th century farmhouse in Barham but died from her injuries.

The court heard that Hartshorne -Jones, who admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility, had made a 999 call from his landline at 4.44am "asking for the police, not the ambulance service", said Peter Gair, prosecuting.

During the call he told the operator he had shot his wife “10 minutes ago”. 

He had then added: “I think she's dying, actually” and then went on to say he had shot her twice in the chest.

He remained on the phone while armed officers were sent to the house and he was arrested on the driveway. 

His wife, who had wounds to her left upper arm and chest, was found on her bedroom floor.

Her bed was covered in blood, indicating that she was probably in bed and possibly asleep when she was shot, said Mr Gair.

Police and paramedics battled to save her but she was declared dead on arrival at Ipswich Hospital at 6.42am.

Mr Gair said there didn’t appear to have been any problems with the marriage until March 2020 when the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed.

The court heard that Hartshorne-Jones believed he had coronavirus and had contacted the ambulance service, doctors and hospitals, 26 times in 42 days in the weeks before the shooting but no cause for his symptoms was found.

Forensic psychiatrists agreed he had been suffering from an 'abnormality of mental function', due to a hypochondriac disorder with psychotic symptoms which had worsened during the lockdown.

He was said to have locked himself in a bedroom to avoid catching Covid-19 and had been angry about his wife dropping tissues around the house.

Hartshorne-Jones first got a shotgun certificate in 2000 and it was renewed in 2015.

He had also obtained a firearms dealer registration in 2010.

The court heard he had answered "no" to a question on firearms certificate applications in 2000 and 2015 about whether he had ever received treatment for a mental health condition.

However, it had since been found that there were episodes of depression recorded in his medical notes prior to the applications.

Silke Hartshorne-Jones, who died after she was shot on Sunday, May 3 Picture: Silke Hartshorne-Jone

Silke Hartshorne-Jones, who died after she was shot on Sunday, May 3 Picture: Silke Hartshorne-Jones/Facebook - Credit: Archant

Police seized eight shotguns, two rifles, two air rifles and nine stocks and barrels from the home after the killing, all of which were held in accordance with licensing requirements, said Mr Gair.

Mrs Hartshorne-Jones, a German national, qualified as a lawyer before moving to London in 2007 and marrying Hartshorne-Jones in 2010.

During the sentencing hearing her brother, Jens Lutschewitz, told the court it "nauseated" him that Hartshorne-Jones had pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

"It's incomprehensible and a real mockery of the real victims in the case." he said.

A woman in her 40s who died following a shooting in Barham has been named locally as Silke Hartshorn

Peter Hartshorne-Jones was sentenced to life in prison at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

Mrs Hartshorne-Jones's other brother, Dr Dirk Lutschewitz, described him as an "intelligent but also highly manipulative man".

Mrs Hartshorne-Jones's father, Hartmut Lutschewitz, said in a statement: "My daughter, only 42 years old and in the prime of her life, was cold-bloodedly killed by a cowardly murderer."

Dr Lisa Wootton, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, told the court she believed the defendant was "suffering from a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms" at the time of the killing.

Uniformed police officers and forensics attend the scene of a shooting at a house in Barham Picture:

Peter Hartshorne-Jones was sentenced to life in prison at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

She said Hartshorne-Jones had a history of mental health issues and was prescribed antidepressants as early as 1996.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Trevor Broughton said Hartshorne-Jones “resented” being asked about the killing while another psychiatrist said the killing happened during a “perfect storm” caused by his mental state, his obsession with his physical health and the coronavirus pandemic.

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