Found Dead 22nd February 2014

Two women, believed to be Christine Lee (66) and her daughter Lucy (40) were found dead on 22nd February 2014 in Farnham, Surrey. Both had been shot.

Surrey Police found the older woman’s body inside Keepers Cottage Stud in Waverley Lane. The younger woman’s body was found outside near animal pens. There were reports she had been shot dead as she tried to flee.

John Lowe (82), a dog breeder, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. There are reports he was Ms Lee’s partner.

After the bodies were found, a police spokesperson said “The parties involved are all believed to be known to each other and police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident”.

Chief Inspector Mark Preston said a long-barrelled weapon was found at the house. CI Preston could not say who initially alerted police, but confirmed nobody else was at the property at the time of the shooting and that the arrested man was uninjured. Both victims had been shot with a long-barrelled shotgun and were pronounced dead at the scene.

It was unclear whether Lowe had a licence for the firearm found at the property.

CI Preston confirmed police had had dealings with the arrested man in the past and said the matter had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). He did not believe there were any active investigations in relation to the suspect at the time of the shootings.

An IPCC spokesman said they were aware of the incident and would be making a decision about whether they would investigate the matter.

Initial reports suggested the women may have been customers who bought a puppy from Lowe. Police officers also found four dogs that had been shot dead – three German shepherds and a Labrador.

After the shootings, animal welfare officers from the RSPCA were called to rescue animals at the property. The property is surrounded by dense woodland and has a driveway lined with signs to say 24-hour CCTV surveillance is in operation.

The farm has been the subject of repeated investigations by animal welfare agencies and complaints by members of the public about animal wefare. In 2004, Lowe was the subject of an investigation by BBC’s Inside Out programme, which claimed he was breeding and selling puppies in poor condition. Some were said to have died soon after being bought.

In 2008, journalists working on a BBC investigation into conditions at his animal farm interviewed customers who said they had bought dogs from Lowe without knowing they were seriously ill.

In 2009 Lowe was convicted at Guildford Crown Court of illegal dog breeding. He was fined £2,000 and banned from breeding dogs for five years.

In July 2013 Surrey Police and the RSPCA were called in about concerns about breeding at the farm, when 50 dogs were found. After the women’s deaths RSPCA Inspector Rob Jackson said: “I came to Mr Lowe’s property about six months ago responding to a complaint about the welfare of dogs at the farm. I will not discuss that visit but previously he has bred a number of different breeds” . An online petition set up last year calling on the RSPCA to close the puppy farm attracted 1,300 signatures.

One neighbour was reported as saying “The RSPCA was always up there and no sooner had they shut him down than he would spring back into business. They just couldn’t stop him”.

Note: This report was drawn from reports in the BBC and the Daily Mail.

FOD Comment: FOD notes that some newspapers seem more concerned about four dead dogs than two dead women. Despite this, we do believe that in this case it is legitimate  to raise issues about animal welfare. The Police and RSPCA are becoming increasingly aware of potential links between abuse of animals and harm to children. They are perhaps less conscious of the links with domestic violence – though anyone who has worked in a refuge will be well aware of this. Repeated proven cruelty to animals and alleged defiance of the courts should raise major concerns about public safety and certainly prevent access to a licensed gun. It will be interesting to see how the IPCC proceeds in this case.

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