Wife of crossbow killer's victim who survived bolt to the neck herself pleads for 'medieval' weapons to be outlawed

A CROSSBOW bloodbath survivor whose partner was murdered by a crazed killer's arrow has pleaded for the "medieval" weapons to be outlawed.

Laura Sugden, who was 20 weeks pregnant during the attack, said it was "unbelievable" that the type of bow which killed her partner had gone under the radar during Downing Street's purge on gun and knife crime.


She announced the launch of her personal mission to avenge boyfriend Shane Gilmer after a jury ruled he was unlawfully killed.

Anthony Lawrence, who fired the deadly bolt, was himself found dead during a nationwide manhunt.

Fighting back tears and with her hands trembling with emotion, she read out her statement outside the coroner's court in Hull, East Yorkshire. 

She said: "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.

"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.

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


Laura, who gave birth to Shane's daughter Ella Faith in June 2019, continued: "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."

Anyone over 18 can buy a crossbow in a shop or over the internet for as little as £150.

Backing the new campaign, Laura's solicitor Ison Harrison added: "The laws that govern the use of crossbows in the UK are woefully inadequate. 

"In recent years, there have been several high-profile murders, but still crossbows are readily available to purchase for as little as £150.

"They are powerful and life-endangering weapons that ought to require the same checks and licences as gun owners."

"Yet we do not know how many crossbows there are in circulation in the UK or in what circumstances they are held.

"Something must be done to help stop such horrific attacks and deaths."


The jurors returned a unanimous conclusion of unlawful killing after one hour of deliberations.

Senior Coroner Professor Paul Marks also earlier spoke out after hearing victim Shane was doomed from the second he was struck by his killer's arrow in "this sad and tragic case".

Prof Marks said: "I'm most concerned – and this has been confirmed by police witnesses during the course of these proceedings – that crossbows of this nature and danger can be bought in an unregulated fashion by anyone over the age of 18 and are not controlled in the same way as shotguns and firearms.

"It is my intention to issue a report to the Home Secretary which will be shared with the National Police Chiefs Council and the family.

"I cannot begin to imagine the effect of Shane's loss in this horrific and lethal way on his close family and the family at large."

The 30-year-old senior council housing officer was shot and fatally wounded by crazed neighbour from hell Lawrence in January 2018.

Lawrence, 56, then turned his "vicious" bow on Shane's pregnant girlfriend Laura, then aged 22.


Loner Lawrence, a convicted criminal living under a new name, snapped when told he was being evicted after Laura had reported him to the letting agent for growing cannabis.

The stench of the plants had been wafting through a grill into Laura's asthmatic three-year-old daughter Isabelle's bedroom.

The couple also complained to Humberside Police that Lawrence brandished an axe at Shane, threatening to kill him and Laura, when Shane pleaded with him to turn his music down late one night.

Lawrence was given notice to quit by February 2018 and told he had to leave for repairs to be made to the property in the sleepy village of Southburn, near Driffield, East Yorkshire.

But he knew what was going on because he had been bugging conversations in Laura and Shanes' adjoining semi for a year.

Wearing a head torch, he tore down the breeze block dividing wall in the attic while the young couple were out on a Friday evening date and Isabelle was away for the night.

Sensing something was wrong when they came home at 9pm, Laura spotted a grubby bootprint on the cream carpet below the loft hatch.

She checked her daughter's room and found Lawrence lying in wait with his bow.

KILLER NEIGHBOUR

As he pushed her into her own bedroom and onto the bed, she screamed at Shane not to come upstairs, but the father-of-three dashed up to save her and was shot in the stomach at point blank range on the landing.

He toppled into the bedroom with blood pouring from the arrow pinning his right forearm to his side.

As Laura hid under the duvet to place a silent 999 call, Lawrence came back into the room and stamped on Shane's mobile.

He shot Laura in the head and the arrow skimmed across the top, and pierced her scalp.

When Laura tugged the missile out, Lawrence sat astride her and forced the bloody bolt into her throat as she pleaded for the life of her unborn daughter.

The ex-cop's daughter managed to break free, fled out the back door, and ran 120 yards to the house of her landlords, who were relaxing after a shooting trip to Scotland.

Neighbours, Zoe and Timothy Rhymer, could see a woman hammering on the door who was drenched from head to toe in blood. 

They thought she had been hurled through the windscreen during a car crash and when they let her in said she had "terrified eyes".

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.

Shane was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary after the attack and died from his wounds shortly after midnight.

Prof Marks was told recluse and survival expert Lawrence owned three crossbows.

He had also doctored the bolts to make the tips more murderous as he plotted his “premeditated” revenge, it was said.

Firearms expert Sgt David Falcus, who coordinated the armed response team that night, agreed with the coroner's concerns that sale of the "lethal and vicious" weapons was completely unregulated.

Sgt Falcus added: "When I hear a crossbow being mentioned we upgrade our body armour and deploy with rifles."

Local Government worker Laura, who gave birth to Ella in the summer of 2019, met the coroner in Chambers on Thursday to ask that the scope of his inquiry ensured "lessons were learned" by 999 workers after the tragedy.

There had been concern from the victims' families that Shane was kept on the phone to medics for 30 minutes before help arrived, but the hearing was told there was little more police or ambulance workers could have done to save him.

Shane lived in a remote village, miles from the nearest hospital, down unlit and twisting country lanes that hampered the 999 vehicles.

Battlefield trauma specialist Stephen Mannion, who conducted an independent investigation into the tragedy, agreed delays were “inevitable”.

He said Shane had suffered such devastating injuries he would only have stood a realistic chance of survival had he been shot "on the hospital doorstep".

The former Royal Marine, who has served as a surgeon in war zones all over the world, agreed with Prof Mark's "the die was cast" the moment the bolt found its mark.

Armed cops stormed Lawrence's house, lobbing stun grenades into the master bedroom in case he was behind the closed door with his bow.

They found a listening device with a microphone next to his book case which he had used to eavesdrop on the couple's conversations through the wall, the court heard. 

Lawrence was found to be a convicted criminal with cannabis convictions who had changed his name from Tony Howarth.

He crawled back into his own house through the hole on the loft wall after the attack and fled in his Vauxhall Mariva.

He was found dead on the third day of a nationwide manhunt in a hired camper van in a lay by on the North York Moors after taking tablets.

Lawrence told his sister to look after his dogs because he was going to Thailand – but never bought a ticket.

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