St Leonards murder trial: Sister '˜saw suspect standing over victim' before fatal shooting
A woman who was in the house at the time her sister and mother were allegedly murdered by her sister's estranged husband has told a court her memories of the evening.
Raven Whitbread, who was seven months pregnant at the time, said she was at home in Bexhill Road, on Friday, March 16, this year when Craig Savage broke into the house and shot dead her sister Michelle Savage, 32, her mother Helen Whitbread, 53, and Mrs Savage’s Staffy-type dog Zeus.
Craig Savage, 35, of no fixed abode, denies two counts of murder.
He did not attend Lewes Crown Court on Thursday morning (October 18), when a jury heard Raven Whitbread recall the events on the evening of the shooting (Friday, March 16)
Speaking via videolink, Ms Whitbread said she was sitting in the lounge with her mother and sister eating a Chinese takeaway when she said she heard a loud noise and the sound of glass breaking at approximately 7.40pm.
Ms Whitbread said she knew the man coming through the window was Craig Savage.
She said: “Mum and Michelle both jumped up and told me to run. Michelle went to the window where he was coming through.
“I climbed over the back of the sofa and out of the room. I believe I put my plate down somewhere and ran back in.
“I first saw my mum hand me the dogs, and she had them by the scruffs of the neck. It was her dog Akira and my dog Tifa and I started to back out the room with them.”
Benjamin Aina QC, prosecuting, asked Ms Whitbread if she saw Mr Savage do anything.
She told the court: “At this point I think I was looking down and then I heard my mum shout ‘don’t you dare’.
“I don’t know what happened in between. I believe he pointed the gun towards me and after she shouted at him, he aimed the gun at her and fired.
“The next thing I remember is Michelle running towards me saying ‘no, no, no’ and at this point I am out into the hallway with the dogs and then I saw her (Michelle) on the floor.
“I saw her put her arms up in front of her and scream as Craig stood over her and shot her a number of times. I did not believe the gun was real at the time. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Ms Whitbread told the court she was aware of emails and texts sent between her sister and Mr Savage dated from the day he moved out of the property (February 12) and the day of the shooting.
She said she was also aware of Mr Savage’s accusation that her sister had given him an STD, as well as the incident relating to a threat of revenge porn which Mr Savage went through with.
Ms Whitbread told the court she was aware of the incident on Michelle’s birthday – a week before the shootings – when paint was poured on her sister’s vehicle and tyres were slashed by Mr Savage as she was the person who ‘cleaned the paint off’.
The jury was also played a recording of a 999 call made by Ms Whitbread shortly after Mr Savage entered the property.
The court was told Ms Whitbread had made her way to an annex at the rear of the property - where her grandmother Patricia Groves was located - to hide and it was from there she made the call to police.
In the call, she is heard telling the operator: “My sister’s crazy ex has just smashed through the window shooting. He had something in his hand. He was holding something, and smashed through the window.
“He was aiming something at my sister and now she is on the floor. He is still in the house, please.
“My sister just said ‘run run’ and then I saw him aiming something at her and bang bang. I don’t know what has happened. I am with my nan and I am seven months pregnant. It has all gone silent – I don’t know what has happened.
“I don’t know what he did. I don’t know if it was a real gun or what but he is mental. He has already slashed my tyres, my sister’s tyres. That was last week and we reported it.
“I am hiding out the back conservatory with my nan and two of my dogs. I don’t know where Zeus is, he was in the sitting room with them but Craig is mental and he may do something to him, I don’t know.”
Cross-examining, Alan Kent QC asked Ms Whitbread to clarify how she remembers seeing her sister when she left the room that evening.
Ms Whitbread said: “I remember her being on her back, arms in front of her, lying on her back on the ground.”
A pathologist report found Michelle had been shot seven times at a downward trajectory.
Her mother Heather Whitbread had been shot six times and each entry wound was on her back suggesting she had been moving away from the suspect, the court was told.
On Thursday, the jury was read a statement by Simon Burden, a builder who owns his own refurbishing company, who employed both Michelle Savage and Raven Whitbread.
Mr Burden said he had spoken to Mrs Savage about her husband on the day of the shooting.
In his statement, he said: “Michelle had told me it was just over the last couple of years things had gone badly (in the relationship).
“Michelle and Craig had been having rows and he had threatened to move out and live with friends.
“At one point, Michelle walked in on Craig hurting her dog. He also used to row with her mum.”
Mr Burden said he had been on Facebook on Friday, March 16, when he heard about a shooting near the Wyevale Hotel and messaged Michelle and Raven to see if they were OK.
Later, Raven replied: “Craig smashed into the house through the window. Don’t know if he shot or killed mum or Michelle. I am still waiting to hear.
“The last thing I saw was Michelle on the floor.”
Mr Savage denies two counts of murder and one charge of possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger public life.
He has previously admitted robbery of an M4 semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle from a range manager at 1066 Target Sports earlier in the evening of March 16.
The trial continues.