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Peter Hartshorne-Jones went to have breakfast after shooting wife and leaving her to die, Ipswich Crown Court told



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A registered gun dealer went to have breakfast after shooting his corporate lawyer wife and leaving her dying in her bedroom, a court heard.

Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 52, held his head in his hands in the dock as his German wife Silke’s brother condemned him as 'cowardly,' 'manipulative,' and lacking in remorse.

Ipswich Crown Court today heard how he had held a shotgun licence and a certificate to sell firearms, despite suffering from depression for many years.

Police officers at the scene outside a farmhouse in Barham in Suffolk, where Silke Hartshorne-Jones was found with gunshot wounds. Picture: Sam Russell/ PA
Police officers at the scene outside a farmhouse in Barham in Suffolk, where Silke Hartshorne-Jones was found with gunshot wounds. Picture: Sam Russell/ PA

Hartshorne-Jones shot Silke, 42, twice with a Harrods 20 bore shotgun in the early hours of May 3 after his mental health worsened during the first coronavirus lockdown and he had become upset about her dropping tissues in the house.

Another person who was asleep in the house was woken by the sound of 'clattering' and found her bleeding on the floor of her bedroom, from wounds to her chest and left arm.

The person went to find Hartshorne-Jones who was having breakfast downstairs, and urged him to call an ambulance, said prosecutor Peter Gair.

Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 52, held his head in his hands in the dock at Ipswich Crown Court as his German wife Silke’s brother condemned him as 'cowardly,' 'manipulative,' and lacking in remorse.
Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 52, held his head in his hands in the dock at Ipswich Crown Court as his German wife Silke’s brother condemned him as 'cowardly,' 'manipulative,' and lacking in remorse.

Hartshorne-Jones instead dialled 999 at 4.44am and asked for police instead of an ambulance, saying he had shot his wife ten minutes earlier at their 17th century home Chestnut Farm in Barham, near Ipswich.

“I think she is dying actually," he added, and admitted shooting his wife of ten years twice in the chest.

Hartshorne-Jones stayed on the line until armed police arrived 15 minutes later, and he met the officers in his driveway, before laying down on the ground.

Police forced their way into her bedroom as her body was on the floor blocking the door, and found her bleeding heavily while lying on her back

Her bed was covered in blood, indicating that she was probably in bed and possibly asleep when she was shot, said Mr Gair.

Police and paramedics battled to save Silke who grew up in Heidelberg and moved to London in 2007 after qualifying as a lawyer, but she was later declared dead on arrival at Ipswich Hospital.

The shot to her chest was fired from a distance of one two metres according to ballistic reports, while the muzzle of the gun was against her body when she was shot in the left arm. But a pathologist was unable to say which shot came first.

The gun used in the shooting was recovered from Hartshorne-Jones’ study and two empty cartridges were found in the bathroom where they had apparently been ejected from his gun.

A further two rifles, two air rifles and seven shotguns, as well as nine stocks and barrels were recovered from two gun cupboards at the Grade II listed house.

Hartshorne-Jones denied murder at an earlier hearing, and the charge was dropped after prosecutors accepted his plea of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

His sentencing hearing is expected to take up to take up to three days and continue until Friday.

The court heard that forensic psychiatrists agreed that that he had been suffering from an 'abnormality of mental function', due to a hypochondriac disorder with psychotic symptoms which had worsened during the lockdown.

He was said to have locked himself in a bedroom to avoid catching Covid-19, and thought he had become infected.

An earlier hearing was told that he had become angry about how his wife dropping tissues around the house, when asked by psychologists to explain why he had shot her.

The court heard how he told one neighbour how he had the virus and 'nobody was paying attention' to him.

Three days before the shooting, Silke told a villager that her husband 'was not good at all and she was finding it difficult'.

Hartshorne-Jones had multiple contacts with health professionals on 26 days out of the 42 days from March 16 to April 27 last year when his wife was working from home instead of her offices in London.

Mr Gair said he had contact with his GP, NHS Direct, the accident and emergency department at Ipswich Hospital, ambulance paramedics sent to his home and three private consultations at the Royal Free Hospital, London.

But Mr Gair said: “The Crown says that his behaviour at the time of the offence and shortly afterwards suggests he was aware of what he had done and we say this was an intentional act.”

Judge Martyn Levett said: “The issue I have to grapple with is the defendant’s responsibility for the killing or his culpability.”

An earlier hearing was told how Hartshorne-Jones had been diagnosed with depression in 1996 and was prescribed anti-depressants in 2009.

He was first granted a shotgun certificate in 2000 by Hertfordshire Police and was granted a firearms dealer certificate in 2010, said Mr Gair.

On his initial application form for a shotgun certificate, he denied having suffered from any medical condition and stated that he had never seen his GP for treatment for depression or any mental disorder.

He had his certificate renewed in July 2015, after Home Office rules had changed meaning the GPs of applicants were approached by police and asked to disclose any 'relevant conditions' that they had, said Mr Gair.

The prosecutor added: “No adverse medical reports were received at the time.”

When asked on his renewal form if he had any medical issues, he again replied 'No', and a visit to his home by a police firearms’ officer found 'no concerns in relation to his medical fitness', said Mr Gair.

The court heard that rules about checking medical background of applicants were tightened further in April 2016, and were being reviewed again following the case of licensed firearms holder Jake Davison, 22, who shot dead five people including a young girl in Plymouth in August this year.

Silke’s brother Jens Lutschewicz who lives in Barcelona read a victim impact statement in court, staring at Hartshorne-Jones in the dock and angrily demanding that he face him as the defendant held his head and looked down.

He emotionally described his 'infinite sadness and pain', and accused Hartshorne-Jones of showing no remorse or empathy, and referred to the shooting of his sister as 'an unbelievable crime committed by a coward'.

Mr Lutschewicz added: “It really enrages and nauseates me to suggest his responsibility was diminished. It makes a mockery of the case. We hear lawyers and psychologists defending the manipulative, irresponsible, and cowardly person who hides himself behind the law.”

Silke’s cousin Kristin Thormann also read out a victim statement, condemning the 'intolerance' and 'hollow superiority' of Hartshorne-Jones.

She praised her cousin for her love of her family, his mischievous nature and her ambition, saying her 'casual' killing had left her 'unsettled, helpless, frustrated and full of sadness'.

Ms Thormann added: “I feel rage against men who feel their concerns are more valid than women and more important than us, and who consider ourselves unworthy of respect.”

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