‘Something must be done’: Partner of crossbow murder victim calls for tougher laws on ‘twisted’ and ‘lethal’ weapons

Shane Gilmer, 30, and his partner Laura Sugden, 30, were both shot by their neighbour with a crossbow in January 2018
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The partner of a man who was killed with a crossbow by a neighbour who lay in wait for him at his home has called for tougher laws governing the ‘lethal’ weapons.

Shane Gilmer, 30, and his pregnant partner Laura Sugden, were brutally shot by their next-door-neighbour Anthony Lawrence, 55, after returning from a night out in 2018.

Mr Lawrence broke into their home in the village of Southburn, near Driffield, East Yorkshire, through an adjoining loft and waited in a bedroom for them to arrive before launching the “premeditated attack”, an inquest heard.

Shane Gilmer died on 13 January 2018 after he was shot with a crossbow and suffered a cardiac arrest (Photo: Laura Sugden/SWNS)Shane Gilmer died on 13 January 2018 after he was shot with a crossbow and suffered a cardiac arrest (Photo: Laura Sugden/SWNS)
Shane Gilmer died on 13 January 2018 after he was shot with a crossbow and suffered a cardiac arrest (Photo: Laura Sugden/SWNS)

Before the shooting took place, there had been “various disputes” regarding Mr Lawrence playing loud music and “horrendous” cannabis fumes coming from his property.

Calls for regulation

Following a week-long inquest at Hull Coroner’s Court on Friday (16 April), a jury concluded that Mr Gilmer was unlawfully killed.

The coroner expresses his concern over current crossbow laws and said he will be writing to Home Secretary Priti Patel to discuss the issue.

Ms Sugden, 30, who survived the attack, spoke outside the court and said it is “unbelievable” that ownership of such a “lethal, medieval weapon” remains unregulated.

She said: “Shane was murdered in the most cruel and terrifying way imaginable.

“It is unbelievable that the sale and ownership of such a lethal, medieval weapon remains unregulated in our modern society.

“There are no laws in place to help prevent crossbows from falling into the hands of twisted and dangerous individuals like Anthony Lawrence.”

Tearful mother-of-two Ms Sugden, who gave birth to a baby girl called Ella-Faith six months after the attack, launched the campaign with her father by her side.

She added: “This lethal weapon has been forgotten about in the government’s strategy on tackling gun and knife crime.

“That’s why today, in loving memory of Shane, and to honour our beautiful daughter that he never got to meet, I am launching a campaign to call for legislation governing crossbows to be brought in line with firearms laws.

“Over the coming weeks I will be speaking with MPs and the Home Secretary to see what can be done to reform crossbows laws.

“I’d like to thank my family, friends and legal team for their unwavering support through such a truly harrowing experience.”

“Shane was a loving partner and a wonderful dad and step-dad. He is missed every day by me and the rest of his family.

“It was clear from his final words how much he loved us all and I hope he knew how much we all loved him.”

‘Woefully inadequate’

Ms Sugden said will be speaking to MPs and the Home Secretary over the coming weeks "to see what can be done to reform crossbows laws."

She described the current laws that govern the use of crossbows in the UK as “woefully inadequate” and said something needs to be done to stop any further attacks and deaths.

The inquest previously heard how Lawrence had been served with an eviction notice after Shane and Laura complained about cannabis smells from his property.

On the night of 12 January 2018, Lawrence broke into the couple’s home through the loft space and shot Mr Gilmer in his arm and torso after waiting for the couple to return from an evening out.

The bolt damaged Mr Gilmer’s liver and kidney before embedding in his spine.

Ms Sugden told the inquest that she went upstairs and found Lawrence in her daughter’s bedroom, holding a crossbow.

She said Lawrence brought the already injured Mr Gilmer into the room and then shot her.

She managed to pull the arrow out of her head but Lawrence took it from her and pushed it into her neck.

She told the jury that she pleaded with Lawrence and managed to escape as Mr Gilmer told her to get help, saying: “Keep you and baby safe.”

The couple were taken to Hull Royal Infirmary but Mr Gilmer, who had managed to tell 999 operators what happened to him, died on arrival after suffering a cardiac arrest in the early hours of 13 January.

Ms Sugden told the court that Lawrence had attacked her and Mr Gilmer after receiving an eviction notice, and she had reported Lawrence to the police and to the letting agency after the smell of cannabis coming through a vent into a bedroom had exacerbated her daughter’s asthma.

She said Lawrence, who had previously threatened Mr Gilmer with an axe, told her as she pleaded with him that he had been listening to the couple’s conversations for a year. Listening equipment was later found in his house.

The killer fled the scene and was found dead two days later in a vehicle in a lay-by in the North York Moors. A supply of tramadol tablets was also recovered.

Senior coroner Professor Paul Marks said he will write to the Home Secretary to raise his concerns at the unregulated sale of the weapons.

He told the hearing: "I am most concerned, and this has been confirmed by police witnesses, that crossbows of this nature and danger can be bought in an unregulated fashion by anyone over the age of 18 and aren’t controlled as shotguns are.

“It is my intention to issue a report to the Home Secretary to this end. This will be shared with the family and other interested persons and there is an obligation for a reply to be sent to me in 56 days, if this is not possible, an extension can be given.

“I can’t begin to imagine how the effects of Shane’s loss have affected the family. They have conducted themselves with great dignity.”

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