Shotgun killer 'trying to make a fool of us all', victim's brother tells court

Peter Hartshorne-Jones has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting his wife at their home in Barham Pictu

Dirk Lutschewitz described the killing of his sister as  ”cowardly and cold-blooded”.  - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk gun dealer who shot his wife thought he was dying of coronavirus and made more than 600 internet searches about sepsis in the month before the killing, a court has heard.

Forensic psychiatrist Lisa Wootoon told Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday that at the time of the shooting Peter Hartshorne-Jones was suffering from a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms.

She said he had a long history of mental health issues dating back to the 1990s and had been so preoccupied with his physical health that he couldn’t be convinced that he wasn’t ill even when tests showed there was nothing wrong with him.

The court heard that in the month before he killed his 42-year-old wife Silke the word “sepsis” had featured in 676 internet searches made by him and the 50 most searched words in his browsing history related to medical matters.

Also giving evidence yesterday was forensic psychiatrist Dr Trevor Broughton who said that although Hartshorne-Jones had responded to antidepressant and antipsychotic medication since the killing he was now unwilling to engage in therapy, which could lead to an impasse in his treatment.

He recommended that Hartshorne-Jones should be sentenced to a hybrid order which would result in him being transferred to prison after completion of his hospital treatment.

Hartshorne-Jones has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

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The court has heard that the 52-year-old shot his solicitor wife twice at close range with a double-barrelled shotgun at their home, in Barham, on May 3 last year after his mental health worsened during the first coronavirus lockdown.

A sentencing hearing, which is expected to conclude on Monday, has heard that in the weeks before the killing Hartshorne-Jones had repeatedly made contact with various care providers but no cause for his symptoms was found.

After the shooting, he made a 999 call to police at 4.44am and remained on the phone while armed officers were dispatched to the address.

His wife, who sustained wounds to her left upper arm and chest and was found on her bedroom floor, went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead in hospital at 6.42am.

Hartshorne-Jones, who ran a recruitment business and traded in shotguns, obtained a shotgun certificate in 2000. It was renewed in 2015 and he also obtained a firearms dealer registration in 2010, the court heard.

Peter Gair, prosecuting,  said Hartshorne-Jones had answered 'no' to questions on applications in 2000 and 2015 about whether he had ever received treatment for a mental health condition.

Mr Gair said episodes of depression had since been found recorded on medical notes prior to the renewal in 2015.

Police seized eight shotguns, two rifles, two air rifles and nine stocks and barrels from the home.

On Tuesday one of Mrs Hartshorne-Jones’ brothers described the killing as ”cowardly and cold-blooded”.

In an emotional  victim impact statement Dirk Lutschewitz said: “My sister’s death wasn’t caused by an accident or a natural disaster. She is dead because her own husband decided to take a gun, load it, walk into her bedroom and point the weapon at her and cold-blooded shoot her.”

Looking directly at Hartshorne-Jones, who sat in the dock with his head in his hands, Mr Lutschewitz described him as “intelligent and highly manipulative” and accused him of “slaughtering” his sister.

“He knows how to make someone believe what he wants them to believe. He is trying to make a fool of us all.”

He said he was tormented by the knowledge that a man as mentally unstable as the defendant got a licence to own and trade firearms. ‘It’s obvious he managed to conceal his medical records in background checks and deceive the authorities.

“Mr Lutschewitz said since his sister’s death Hartshorne-Jones hadn’t expressed any remorse or regret for what he’d done and accused him of “wallowing in self-pity.”

In his victim impact statement Mrs Hartshorne-Jones’ 76-year-old father Hartmut Lutschewitz described sitting at his daughter’s deathbed at Ipswich Hospital as the “saddest and darkest hour” of his life.

He described his daughter’s killing as “monstrous and senseless”.