St Leonards murder trial: Defendant ‘shot estranged wife, mother-in-law and dog a month after marriage broke down’

A man planned and executed the fatal shooting of his estranged wife, her mother and her pet dog a month after his marriage broke down, a jury has been told.

Craig Savage, 35, is facing charges of murdering his wife of five years Michelle Savage, 32, and her mother Heather Whitbread, 53, at an address in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, on March 16, as well as possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger public life on the same date.

Craig Savage arriving at Lewes Crown Court. SUS-181015-110522001

Craig Savage arriving at Lewes Crown Court. SUS-181015-110522001

Mr Savage denies these charges.

At Lewes Crown Court on Monday morning (October 15) the defendant pleaded guilty to robbing Ryan Grave of a firearm, described in the charge as an M4 semiautomatic .22 calibre rifle, on March 16.

Presenting the prosecution’s case to the jury, Benjamin Aina QC said: “On the evening of March 16 this year police officers attended an address in St Leonards.

“There they found the body of Michelle Savage, a lady who was aged 32. They found the body of her mother Heather Whitbread, a lady who was aged 53 years. Both women had been shot dead.

“They also found the body of Michelle’s pet dog Zeus. He had also been shot dead.”

Mr Aina said Michelle had been shot about seven times and her mother Heather Whitbread had been shot about six times.

He added: “One of the entry wounds on each woman was accompanied by a muzzle mark - that indicates that the firearm was pressed fairly close to each woman and discharged in an execution type manner.

“At the time of the shooting, another woman at the address was Michelle’s younger sister Raven Whitbread. She was seven months pregnant.

“Also in the address was Michelle’s grandmother Patricia Groves. Both these women were able to hide during the shooting and escaped physically unharmed.”

The prosecution’s case is that Michelle Savage and her mother Heather Whitbread were both shot by Mr Savage.

Mr Aina added: “He (Mr Savage) carried out the shooting using a stolen semi-automatic rifle.

“It is the prosecution’s case he carried out the shooting because he had been rejected by his wife Michelle Savage who had separated from him a month before. He was desparate for a reconciliation.

“He bugged her with texts, threatened her with revenge porn, poured paint on the family car and slashed the car tyres on Michelle Savage’s car on her birthday about a week before. But all of this was to no avail.

“Michelle refused to reconcile and so it is the prosecution’s case that Craig Savage planned the execution of his wife and carried it out on the evening of Friday, March 16 this year.

“It is likely that Mr Savage’s defence is that the shooting of his estranged wife and the shooting of his mother-in-law and the pet dog was a complete accident and he had no intention to cause any of them any harm. He may claim that, on the night, he entered the address, he tripped and there was a struggle with his wife and the rifle went off by accident.”

Mr Savage is also accused of attempting to fire his rifle at a police officer who was intending to apprehend him but was unsuccessful as the ‘firing mechanism had become jammed’.

Mr Aina said Mr Savage claimed in police interviews after his arrest he was intending to kidnap his estranged wife and have police shoot him in front of her in a ‘cop assisted suicide’ as revenge.

The court was also taken through emails between Mr Savage and Michelle Savage from February 16 - four days after the couple split - and February 25.

In these messages, the prosecution argues the defendant refused to listen to Michelle Savage’s request to stop talking about their relationship.

The trial continues.

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