De La Mer care home manager convinced alleged gunman to hand over weapon after Rita King, 81, was shot dead in Walton on the Naze
- Credit: Su Anderson
The boss of a care home where a woman, 81, was shot dead convinced the alleged gunman to hand over his weapon.
Julie Curtis, who runs De La Mer residential home in Walton on the Naze, said she saw the man walking towards her holding a gun.
She put her arm around the man, who had reportedly been staying at the home for one week, and pleaded for him to drop the weapon.
Police said the man – who was arrested on suspicion of murder – and the woman were related.
She said: “I put my left arm around him and put his right arm between him and the gun and said ‘please, please give me the gun’, and he let go.”
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Mrs Curtis, who has run the home for two years, said at first she had not realised the gun was real or if anybody had been injured.
“He came towards me with the gun. My first thought was that it wasn’t real, but then my next thought was trying to stop him hurting my residents,” she said.
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No other people were in the vicinity of the alleged attack when it took place, Mrs Curtis said, adding staff had dealt with the situation “brilliantly”.
She said: “It’s a shock – I cannot believe it happened at a residential care home.
“Our staff have been brilliant, staying calm and speaking to the residents who live here. Under the circumstances, everyone is coping very well.”
She added: “All the other residents are fine and the gentlemen involved in the incident has been arrested and is being interviewed at Colchester police station.
“Everyone else is fine and we are trying to look after the 45 other people and trying to inform their families.”
Mrs Curtis said police were expected to be at the premises all evening.
The emergency services were called just after 9am today to reports that a woman had been seriously injured at the care home in Naze Park Road.
Ambulance crews attended but the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
Detectives later identified the woman as 81-year-old Rita King.
A revolver was recovered from the scene which was taken away for forensic and firearm experts to examine.
The woman and the male suspect, reported to be 86, were both residents of the care home, police confirmed.
Dawn Aganoke, 40, lives just a few doors down from the care home with her husband and two children aged one and two.
She said: “It’s unreal, really, because we have lived here for three years and never had anything like this happen.
“I think everyone around here will be really shocked because it’s just unheard of. Nothing ever really goes on like that around here, not four or five houses away.”
One 23-year-old resident, who asked not to be named, said he was shocked by the news because his girlfriend used to work at De La Mer House care home.
He added: “...things like that don’t happen around here. We hear about knives but you don’t hear about guns. It’s usually quiet around here, no trouble, so it was quite a shock to hear, I can’t believe it’s true.”
Douglas Carswell, the MP for the area, said he believed this was an “enclosed incident”.
“It’s absolutely shocking,” he added. “I know the care home very well and it’s always struck me as a very warm, friendly and happy place and I think many of the staff there will be absolutely in a state of shock and of course many of the residents and their loved ones will be feeling very concerned. I think reassurance is the key word.
“I know lots of people wanting to get residents into De La Mer House but I have not come across anyone wanting to get loved ones out of it.”
A police officer has stood guard at the premises while forensic searches have been carried out.
An Essex Police spokesman said detectives from the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate were leading the murder inquiry.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Werrett said police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the investigation and enquiries were ongoing.
Family liaison officers from Essex Police were sent to support the family.
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the trust was called at 9.08am and sent one ambulance crew, a rapid response vehicle and an ambulance officer to the care home.
“It came in as a shooting,” he added. “One person was sadly declared deceased at the scene.”
Anyone with any information should contact Essex Police on 101 or SCDappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk. People can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.