A mother has shared how the birth of her daughter ‘healed her heart’ after a deranged neighbour shot her in the head with a crossbow and killed her partner.
Crossbow killer Anthony Lawrence broke into the home of Laura Sugden and her boyfriend Shane Gilmer in Southburn, East Yorkshire, in 2018.
After fatally wounding Shane, Lawrence shot pregnant Laura in the head and she was forced to beg for the life of her unborn child before fleeing.
Lawrence was himself found dead days later during a nationwide manhunt.
After a jury concluded Shane had been unlawfully killed at an inquest into Shane’s death, Laura said she planned to campaign against the unregulated sale of crossbows like the one used by Lawrence to launch his deadly attack.
In her first interview since the inquest in Hull concluded, Laura has described how she has had to be strong for their daughter Ella, who is now two years old.
Lawrence (right) launched his attack over a belief Shane and Laura (left) had conspired with his letting agent to have him evicted after disputes over his cannabis use and his loud music
Laura Sugden, pictured outside court, said it was unbelievable the type of bow which killed her partner had gone under the radar during Downing Street’s purge on gun and knife crime.
The homes of Lawrence (believed to be on the left) and Mr Gilmer (believed to be on the right)
What does the law say about crossbows in UK
In the United Kingdom, no licence or registration is required to own or use crossbows, because they are not legally classed as firearms.
Similar to bats and knives, crossbows can be classed as an ‘offensive weapon’ if carried in public which could lead to prosecution.
People can be prosecuted for using crossbows for illegal hunting, or for attacking people, under separate laws.
For the purposes of UK law, crossbows are defined as a form of bow in which the bow-stave (prod) is fixed crosswise to a stock and can be drawn by hand or lever, before being released by a trigger.
Under the Crossbows Act 1987, crossbows cannot be bought or sold in England, Wales or Scotland by or to those under 18.
Possession is also prohibited by those under 18 years old except under adult supervision.
The act states that crossbows may be used by persons under 18 years of age only when supervised by a person aged 21 years old or over.
Speaking to the Mirror, Laura, 30, said: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened but I have to be strong for Ella.
‘I didn’t know how I was going to manage on my own but the minute Ella was born something in my heart healed.
‘I’ve told her Daddy is a star and she’ll ask, ‘My daddy loved me didn’t he?’
‘Every milestone reminds me that Shane isn’t here, her first step, her first birthday and that will go on for ever.’
Describing her ordeal at Hull Coroners’ Court, Laura said she was shot in the head by Lawrence who also cut her throat with the arrow after she managed to remove it.
Laura, who was 27 at the time, told the inquest that she begged Lawrence not to kill her because she was pregnant.
She told the coroner: ‘Shane came into the bedroom and he was injured. I asked him [Lawrence] if what he had done would kill Shane.
‘He said it would and he was going to kill me too. I told him I was pregnant and he said he already knew. I asked him how he knew and he said he had been listening to our conversations for a year.’
The court heard Lawrence claimed the couple had got him evicted. Ms Sugden said: ‘I was trying to reason with him and said I didn’t know what he was talking about.
‘He said we had got him evicted. I said I would ring the letting agent and say it was nothing to do with us.
‘He then said I was lying, I was a lying b***h because he had been listening to Shane and I for a year. He shot me in the head. At the top of my head.’
She added: ‘I took the arrow out of my head.
‘He had left the room at that point but I think he must have heard me get up so he came into the bedroom and he managed to get the arrow I had in my hand and push it on my neck.’
Lethal: the crossbow used by Anthony Lawrence to carry out his fatal attack on Shane Gilmer
Shane’s last words: ‘I need to say something. I love my children’
Shane Gilmer asked emergency services to tell his children he loved them after his neighbour shot and fatally wounded him with a crossbow, an inquest today heard.
Shane Gilmer, 30, called 999 and stayed on the phone for 30 minutes as he bled out after Anthony Lawrence, 55, attacked him and his pregnant partner Laura Sugden in their home.
During the call to emergency services Mr Gilmer said: ‘I need to say something. I love my children.’
He said he could not move and there was ‘blood everywhere’ and could be heard breathing heavily and crying and screaming with pain during the half-hour call, the inquest was told.
Later in the call, he said: ‘I need to tell my mum and dad I love them. I’ve fallen out with them last week but I really love them. I love Laura, I hope they are all OK.’
He repeatedly asked where the emergency services were and said they were taking ‘too long’, the inquest heard.
Towards the end of the phone call, Mr Gilmer said: ‘I feel like I’m fading, I’ve lost so much blood. She sounded so scared. I can’t believe this has happened.’
The call ended shortly after police arrived at the house and told Mr Gilmer that Ms Sugden was safe.
She said her and Shane reported Lawrence to the police and letting agent when they could smell cannabis in their house, coming from their neighbouring property.
But when the agent served him with an eviction notice, they told Lawrence it was for renovation works to the property to protect Shane and Laura.
However, after the notice was served, Lawrence twice dumped piles of manure on their drive.
Laura also said Lawrence had previously threatened to kill Shane with an axe when the tragic father asked him to turn his music down in the autumn of 2016.
Lawrence, who had the axe in his hand, told Laura: ‘I’ll f***ing kill you too’ when she left her house to see what the commotion was, the court heard.
She told the court: ‘It just seemed strange, he seemed to know it was Shane knocking on the door and why he would come to the door with an axe?
‘Shane hadn’t even got to the back gate before he came out carrying on and screaming at him.’
On the night of the attack, Laura and Shane had been out to Gino D’Acampo’s Italian restaurant in Hull, the inquest heard.
When they arrived home, Laura said she noticed a dark stain on the cream carpet underneath the loft hatch.
She said she opened her daughter’s bedroom door to find Lawrence stood with the crossbow.
Lawrence accused the couple of ‘cooking up a plan’ with the letting agent to get him evicted.
The 55-year-old pushed Laura into the main bedroom and ran back into the hall as Shane came upstairs, giving Laura a chance to call 999.
Laura told the Mirror: ‘I was terrified. It was surreal. I kept thinking this isn’t happening.
‘Then I heard Shane saying, ‘What the f*** is that?’. The next thing I heard him moaning.’
Shane Gilmer (above, with Laura), 30, died after a crossbow bolt fired by Lawrence broke his arm and a rib, damaged his liver and kidney and became embedded in his spine, court heard
An inquest into the death of Shane Gilmer who was killed by crossbow-wielding neighbour Anthony Lawrence has heard how armed police used stun grenades when hunting the suspect
Lawrence had shot Shane with the crossbow and a bolt had ripped through him before becoming embedded in his spine.
Lawrence then dragged Shane into the bedroom on his knees before shooting Laura in the head.
During the ensuing scuffle, Laura managed to remove the bolt but Lawrence forced it into her throat causing a wound so deep doctors would later tell Laura they could see her voice box.
She managed to fight Lawrence off and he fled the scene. Shane then instructed Laura to run and get help and to make sure she kept the baby safe.
Laura ran to a neighbours and armed police and paramedics arrived soon after but they were unable to save Shane’s life.
Speaking after the inquest earlier this month, Laura announced her plans to honour Shane’s memory by campaigning for safer laws over the sale of crossbows.
Appearing at Hull Coroners’ Court, Laura Sugden (pictured arriving at the inquest), said she was shot in the head by Lawrence who cut her throat with the arrow after she removed it
Fighting back tears and with her hands trembling with emotion, she read out her statement outside the coroner’s court in Hull, East Yorkshire.
She said: ‘Shane was a loving partner and a wonderful dad and step-dad; he is missed every day by me and the rest of his family.
‘It was clear from his final words how much he loved us all and I hope he knew how much we all loved him.
‘Shane was murdered in the most cruel and terrifying way imaginable.
‘It is unbelievable that the sale and ownership of such a lethal, medieval weapon remains unregulated in our modern society.
‘There are no laws in place to help prevent crossbows from falling into the hands of twisted and dangerous individuals like Anthony Lawrence.
Shane Gilmer was fatally wounded when crazed Anthony Lawrence shot him with a crossbow
The court heard Shane’s last words to Laura were instructing her to get out of the house
‘This lethal weapon has been forgotten about in the government’s strategy on tackling gun and knife crime.’
Laura, who gave birth to Shane’s daughter Ella Faith in June 2018, continued: ‘That’s why today, in loving memory of Shane, and to honour our beautiful daughter that he never got to meet, I am launching a campaign to call for legislation governing crossbows to be brought in line with firearms laws.
‘Over the coming weeks I will be speaking with MPs and the Home Secretary to see what can be done to reform crossbows laws.
‘I’d like to thank my family, friends and legal team for their unwavering support through such a truly harrowing experience.’
The jurors returned a unanimous conclusion of unlawful killing this afternoon after one hour of deliberations.
Prof Paul Marks also earlier spoke out after hearing victim Shane was doomed from the second he was struck by his killer’s arrow in ‘this sad and tragic case’.
Prof Marks said: ‘I’m most concerned – and this has been confirmed by police witnesses during the course of these proceedings- that crossbows of this nature and danger can be bought in an unregulated fashion by anyone over the age of 18 and are not controlled in the same way as shotguns and firearms.
‘It is my intention to issue a report to the Home secretary which will be shared with the National Police Chiefs Council and the family.
‘I will, of course, keep the family and other interested parties appraised of the outcome of this report.
‘I cannot begin to imagine the effect of Shane’s loss in this horrific and lethal way on his close family and the family at large.
‘They have conducted themselves throughout with dignity and forbearance.’
Shane Gilmer’s death is just the latest high-profile crossbow attack
The unregulated sale of crossbows has been called into question a number of times in recent years after several high profile attacks involving the deadly weapons.
Last month, a double-killer who used a crossbow to murder his own brother and a rival gang member was ordered to serve a minimum term of 33 years.
Convicted drug-dealer Saghawat Ramzan, 47, killed kickboxer Khuzaimah Douglas around a minute after fatally injuring his younger brother Waseem Ramzan, 36, by mistake after a raid on the family’s cannabis factory in Brierley Hill, Dudley.
Crossbow used by Saghawat Ramzan to kill his brother Waseem Ramzan and Douglas
In February last year, sports therapist Terence Whall was jailed for life after fatally wounding Gerald Corrigan at home in North Wales in what was described as a ‘medieval-style execution’.
Mr Corrigan, who had previously worked as a lecturer in photography and video, was found with a crossbow bolt in his chest and died of his injuries one month later while being treated in hospital.
Following Whall’s conviction, Karen Dixon of the Crown Prosecution Service called crossbows ‘deadly, silent weapons that can cause horrific injuries’.
In 2019, a ‘cold-blooded’ crossbow killer who shot his heavily pregnant ex-wife in an act of revenge was jailed for life with a minimum term of 33 years.
Mark Waterfall, 46, shot a GP with a crossbow in 2018
Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo, 51, burst into the home of Sana Muhammad and fired an arrow into her stomach as she fled upstairs in a ‘brutal and evil attack’.
Mrs Muhammad, 35, suffered catastrophic internal injuries in the shooting in East London and died.
In 2018, the son of a patient Mark Waterfall shot a GP with a crossbow in Watford, Hertfordshire, because he blamed Dr Gary Griffith for the death of his father four days earlier in hospital.
Before Waterfall fired the metal tipped bolt, he told the doctor: ‘You killed my father and I am going to kill you.’
Waterfall was found guilty of attempted murder and was jailed for 20 years.