Domestic violence probe ‘essential’

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Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A woman whose mother and sister were murdered last year has said “time doesn’t heal” and said a public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence is “essential”.

Stacy Banner, 39, from Aldershot, said her two young children – five-year-old son London and seven-year-old daughter Elouise – are her “inspiration” and enable her to keep going after her mother and sister were shot dead.

Christine Lee, 66, and Lucy Lee, 40, were murdered by dog breeder John Lowe, 82, at his puppy farm in Surrey last February and he was sentenced to at least 25 years in jail last October.

Ms Banner was speaking ahead of domestic violence charity Refuge publishing a list of names to commemorate the lives of women who have died in a context of domestic violence from 2010 to 2013.

The charity is also renewing calls for a public inquiry into police and state response to domestic violence, which Ms Banner described as “essential”.

She said: “I knew John Lowe was dangerous and that he would kill. I told the police – more than once. Surrey police took away John Lowe’s guns. But they gave them back to him.

“And then he killed my family. I want answers from the police. The IPCC is investigating Surrey Police and I await the publication of their findings. I cannot comment further on this while their investigation is ongoing.”

She added: “This cannot continue to happen. It shouldn’t continue to happen. No one should ever see their sister like I saw mine.”

Asked how she is coping, almost a year on from the murders, she said: “It doesn’t get any better. It gets worse, because everything’s a memory. Time doesn’t heal. Not with murder.

“My children are magical so they keep me going, they keep me strong, because without my children I wouldn’t be here.”

Reflecting on what Christine and Lucy were like, she said: “I think of my sister all the time. She was really, really funny. She was really sarcastic. And she was really clever, so the fact that she isn’t here is like losing my shadow.

“She was my best friend, so you can never, ever replace…you think you have friends, but you can never, ever replace the memories of childhood, the memories of waking up and your sister’s in your bed, or your sister’s pulling your hair, or mud pies, or anything that you did as a child.

“No one can replace that. And my mum’s cooking…I miss my mum’s cooking. And her mad singing. She was a really, really bad singer, but she really sang. I miss them all the time, every element, every second of everyday.”

Ms Banner said she keeps the memories of her mother and sister alive for her two children.

“There’s pictures of them everywhere. And I talk about nanny and I speak about Lucy, and my daughter is old enough to know what’s happened.

“She’s not a baby, so she knows. And that’s absolutely devastating for a seven-year-old little girl to have to cope with. However, she’s like my sister, she’s a little worrier. They get me through.

“As my daughter says, they’re in heaven, so that’s pretty special. And every time my daughter feels lonely or wants to speak, I always say well you can, just look up to the sky. So, yeah, they’re my inspiration.”

Lowe lived at Keepers Cottage Stud puppy farm for 45 years and Guildford Crown Court heard he had been handling shotguns since the age of seven.

He met Christine Lee 25 years ago when she went to buy a horse for one of her daughters.

They later started a relationship despite him living at the stud with his long-term partner. After she died from cancer in March 2013, he moved Christine in, with Lucy later joining them.

Surrey Police released audio of a dramatic 999 call made by Lucy before she was killed, in which she told the operator: ”I don’t know whether I’m going to be alive if I go back in there. He shot my mum.”

The force apologised to the family after a number of Lowe’s guns were confiscated in March 2013 following an allegation that threats to kill had been made, but then returned to him four months later.

Lowe was sentenced to life imprisonment for a minimum of 25 years for the murders, and a sentence of 10 years for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, to run concurrently.

Ms Banner added: “I had heard the statistic that two women are killed every week by a partner or ex-partner. But I never thought that one week those two women would be my two women – my mum and my sister.

“Domestic violence has to stop. It is unacceptable that so many women and children still live in fear for their lives and are so let down by the agencies designed to protect them.

“There needs to be a public inquiry into what is going wrong. In memory of my mum, Christine, and my sister, Lucy.”

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “In recent years Refuge has been working with the families of women killed by violent partners or ex-partners to push for change and obtain justice for their loved ones who were failed when they reached out for help.”

She said that is why Refuge is publishing a list of names of women who have died in a context of domestic violence from the start of 2010 to the end of 2013. She said 268 names would be on the list.

“These women are not statistics,” she said, a dding: “We must all speak out for the dead to protect the living.”

Ms Horley called on people to sign the charity’s petition petition urging the Government to open a public inquiry.

Refuge’s petition urging the Government to open a public inquiry can be accessed from the charity’s website – www.refuge.org.uk/publicinquiry.

The charity is using the hashtag #KnowHerName.

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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