Boxted man who shot his wife told police they loved each other before shooting himself

Police at the house of Harold and Wendy Ambrose in Chapel Road, Boxted.

Police at the house of Harold and Wendy Ambrose in Chapel Road, Boxted. - Credit: Archant

A dementia sufferer who shot his wife told police the couple were in love minutes before turning the gun on himself.

Police at the house of Harold and Wendy Ambrose in Chapel Road, Boxted.

Police at the house of Harold and Wendy Ambrose in Chapel Road, Boxted. - Credit: Archant

Harold Ambrose, 82, called 999 at 6.37am on May 24 last year and told an operator he had shot his wife Wendy and that he would shoot himself “in the very near future”.

An inquest into the couple’s death held yesterday at the Essex Coroner’s Court in Chelmsford heard firearms officers found both bodies at their home in Chapel Road, Boxted – Mrs Ambrose in an armchair and Mr Ambrose outside by the kitchen door.

The court heard Mrs Ambrose, 77, had been diagnosed two weeks’ earlier with terminal cancer and given just six to nine months to live, while Mr Ambrose had been diagnosed with mixed dementia at the end of 2012.

In a police report the operator who took the 999 call said: “He said they were in love, enjoyed life, but could only see death and horrible things in front of them.”

Chief Inspector Glen Pavelin of Essex Police

Chief Inspector Glen Pavelin of Essex Police - Credit: Archant

A post-mortem examination by Dr Benjamin Swift found Mrs Ambrose had suffered two shotgun wounds to the face and head, while Mr Ambrose died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

The wounds matched the shotgun found at the scene, which was legally owned by Mr Ambrose, and no-one else is thought to have been involved.

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The inquest examined how Harold Ambrose was able to hold a shotgun licence when he had been diagnosed with dementia.

Chief Inspector Glen Pavelin, who oversees firearms applications at Essex Police, explained the licence had been held since November 1987 and was last renewed in November 2011 for five years.

At that time a letter was sent to Mr Ambrose’s GP as a matter of course inviting any comments, and the letter remained on file.

However Mr Ambrose was not diagnosed with dementia until the end of 2012, and there is no legal requirement for doctors to flag up patients with firearms licences, inform police of a change of circumstances, or even keep the notification letter from police.

Even with the diagnosis, although Wendy Ambrose had raised concerns about her husband’s declining mental health, a GP visit on nine days before the deaths found Mr Ambrose, alone with his wife in hospital, dressed and the house neat and tidy.

Mr Pavelin said Essex Police was leading a national project with the Home Office to review those requirements, allowing the force to review a weapon licence if concerns are raised.

Coroner Eleanor McGann said she intended to write to the Home Office urging it to consider a change to the law so GPs must inform police of a change in health of patients known to have firearms licences.

Detective Constable Lea Goodwin who led the investigation for Essex Police said Mr Ambrose’s sister had told officers their grandfather had once stated he would shoot his own wife if she became too unwell, and knowing her brother had a shotgun suggested that was what had happened.

A carer who visited the couple the day before their deaths said Mrs Ambrose had told her they were planning to sell the house to move into a care home together.

Mrs McGann recorded conclusions of unlawful killing for Mrs Ambrose, and suicide for Mr Ambrose – both verdicts which require evidence beyond reasonable doubt, unlike most inquest conclusions.

She said: “I am assured the physical circumstances exactly fit with what was said on the phone call.

“These are very very sad circumstances and a very sad inquest.”