Pregnant mother, 22, played dead to survive after being shot

Pregnant mother, 22, played dead to survive after being shot in the head with a crossbow by neighbour who murdered her boyfriend after lying in wait in their daughter’s bedroom as they returned from date night, inquest hears

  • Anthony Lawrence broke into home of Laura Sugden and Shane Gilmer in 2018
  • He fatally wounded Mr Gilmer and shot Ms Sugden in the head with crossbow 
  • Lawrence was found dead days later and inquest recorded conclusion of suicide

A pregnant woman played dead after being shot with a crossbow by a neighbour who murdered her boyfriend after lying in wait in their daughter’s bedroom, an inquest heard.   

Crossbow killer Anthony Lawrence broke into the home of Laura Sugden and her boyfriend Shane Gilmer in Southburn, East Yorkshire, in January 2018.

After fatally wounding Mr Gilmer, 30, Lawrence shot pregnant Ms Sugden in the head and she was forced to beg for the life of her unborn child before fleeing.

Lawrence, 55, was himself found dead days later during a nationwide manhunt.

Ms Sugden today told an inquest at Hull Coroner’s Court how the former Territorial Army squaddie had abruptly halted his attack on her because ‘he probably thought I would be dead soon.’    

 Crossbow killer Anthony Lawrence (right) broke into the home of Laura Sugden and her boyfriend Shane Gilmer (left) in Southburn, East Yorkshire, in January 2018

Ms Sugden told an inquest at Hull Coroner’s Court how the former Territorial Army squaddie had abruptly halted his attack on her because ‘he probably thought I would be dead soon’

The mother-of-two, who gave birth to Mr Gilmer’s daughter Ella Faith in June 2018, was shot in the head by Lawrence after she and her boyfriend returned home from Gino D’Acampo’s Italian restaurant in Hull.

Lawrence, who owned several crossbows, had broken into the couple’s home through the loft and was waiting in their daughter’s bedroom with the weapon.

He fatally shot Mr Gilmer in the side before turning the crossbow to Ms Sugden and shooting her in the head.

The mother-of-two today told an inquest into Lawrence’s death how she was pushed to the floor by her attacker after ripping the bolt from her body. 

‘I was lying on my back. Tony was on top of me,’ she said. ‘He was trying to push the arrow into my throat. 

‘I wrestled with him. I knew if it went into my throat I would die instantly.’

The homes of Lawrence (believed to be on the left) and Mr Gilmer (believed to be on the right)

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.

The inquest heard how Lawrence continued the attack even after Ms Sugden told him she was pregnant and begged him to spare the life of her unborn child.   

All seemed lost when he suddenly loosened his grip, she said.   

She said: ‘He must have thought he had done what he needed to do and I was going to die. He was still saying I was not leaving until I was f***ing dead.’

When Lawrence left the room, a dying Mr Gilmer begged Ms Sugden to flee.

She said: ‘Shane said he loved me and wanted me and the baby to be okay.

‘I thought it was our only chance of survival.’

Ms Sugden ran to a neighbour’s house and armed police and paramedics arrived soon after but they were unable to save Shane’s life.   

The hearing was told the expectant mother was the last person to see Lawrence alive as he drove away. 

Her attacker was found dead in a hired motorhome on the North York Moors near Scarborough by a police armed response team involved in the manhunt.

He was pronounced dead on January 14 but had probably been dead for two days from an overdose. Coroner Ian Sprakes recorded a conclusion of suicide.

Mr Sprakes said: ‘It is clear to me after attacking and killing Shane Gilmer and attacking and injuring Laura Sugden he decided to take his own life.’

The inquest heard how Lawrence had been ‘in and out of bother with police’ since his childhood.   

His career in the Territorial Army ended when he was jailed for violence and he became a reclusive loner.

The brutal attack on Mr Gilmer and Ms Sugden came after he used a bug to listen into their conversations, and found the couple had got him evicted for growing cannabis.

Ms Sugden told an earlier inquest into her boyfriend’s death how she and Shane reported Lawrence to the police and letting agent when they could smell cannabis in their house, coming from his neighbouring property.

But when the agent served Lawrence with an eviction notice, they told him 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. 

Mr 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

Speaking after the inquest today, Ms Sugden said she would not be alive if Lawrence had not been fooled into thinking she was already dying. Pictured: The scene

Ms Sugden also said Lawrence had previously threatened to kill Mr Gilmer with an axe when the father asked him to turn his music down in the autumn of 2016.

Lawrence, who had the axe in his hand, told Ms Sugden: ‘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?

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. 

‘Shane hadn’t even got to the back gate before he came out carrying on and screaming at him.’ 

Speaking after the inquest today, Ms Sugden said she would not be alive if Lawrence had not been fooled into thinking she was already dying.

She said: ‘He probably thought I would be dead soon after he left.’

The mother-of-two has launched a campaign to outlaw crossbows being sold over the counter.

‘The campaign is going very well,’ she said. ‘I am speaking to the Shadow Home Secretary this month, hoping for him to push for a meeting with Priti Patel.’  

An earlier inquest into Mr Gilmer’s death at Hull Coroner’s Court in April saw jurors return a unanimous conclusion of unlawful killing after one hour of deliberations. 

Mr Gilmer died after the crossbow bolt broke his arm and a rib, damaged his liver and kidney and became embedded in his spine, Hull Coroner’s Court heard.

Speaking after the inquest earlier this year, Laura announced her plans to honour Shane’s memory by campaigning for safer laws over the sale of crossbows.

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.

‘This lethal weapon has been forgotten about in the government’s strategy on tackling gun and knife crime.’

She 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.’ 

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.

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