Coroner calls for stricter crossbow laws after man murders neighbour and shoots pregnant woman in East Yorkshire

A coroner has called on the government to introduce stricter laws on crossbow ownership after a man used one to murder his next-door neighbour in East Yorkshire and shoot a pregnant woman in the head.

Shane Gilmer, 30, and his partner Laura Sugden were shot with a crossbow at their home in Southburn, near Driffield, in January 2018.

Anthony Lawrence, 55, shot Shane Gilmer, 30, and his partner Laura Sugden at their home in Southburn, near Driffield, in January 2018.

Mr Gilmer died at Hull Royal Infirmary the following day, but Ms Sugden, who was 20 weeks pregnant, survived the attack.

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After the inquest, Professor Paul Marks, Senior Coroner for East Riding of Yorkshire, wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel and said the government should look at regulating the possession of crossbows in the UK.

Laura Sugden has launched a campaign calling for stricter laws on the sale and possession of crossbows

Ms Sudgen has also launched a campaign calling for stricter laws on the sale and possession of crossbows, and set up a petition which has more than 38,000 signatures.

In his letter, the coroner said: “Action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and your ministers have the power to take such action.”

He said that unlike firearms, there is “no on-going control, record or licensing requirement” for these weapons, which can be bought legally by anyone over the age of 18 in the UK.

He wrote: “The police have no record of who owns crossbows, how they are stored, the number that are in circulation in the community and so forth, yet evidence was heard about the power and lethal capabilities of these weapons, as well as the fact that they are essentially silent.

“Over the last few years, there have been some high profile incidents and killings that have involved the use of these weapons and the present case is unfortunately another example.

“In my opinion, you should consider a review of existing legislation, including the Crossbows Act 1987 and the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 with the intention of regulating the sale and possession of these lethal weapons.”

A Home Office spokesman said: "Crossbows are subject to strict controls and legislation is in place to deal with those who use them as a weapon.

"We keep the legislation on bladed articles and offensive weapons, including crossbows, under review.”

The five-day inquest heard that Mr Lawrence, who lived next door to his victims, altered the crossbow darts to make them more lethal before he carried out a “carefully planned, premeditated” attack on January 12.

After he was served with an eviction notice because the couple made a complaint about a strong smell of cannabis coming from his property, he broke into their home by climbing through the shared loft space.

Mr Gilmer suffered catastrophic blood loss and died after a bolt passed through his right arm and damaged his liver, kidney and spine.

He managed to phone 999, as he lay dying, and urged the emergency services to find his pregnant partner.

Ms Sugden was shot in the head and when she removed the bolt, her attacker pushed it into her neck. But she escaped and ran to a nearby house.

Lawrence fled and was found dead in a camper van that was parked in a lay-by near Scarborough in North Yorks on January 14.

The couple's daughter Ella-Faith will turn three in the summer.

Ms Sugden has one daughter from a previous relationship and Mr Gilmer had two daughters from a previous relationship.