Shane Gilmer was 30 years-old and lived in Driffield, East Yorkshire with his partner Laura Sugden. In January 2018 he was killed after the couple’s neighbour, Anthony Lawrence, broke into their home and fatally shot him twice with a crossbow. Lawrence also shot Ms Sugden during the attack, but she survived, as did the couple’s then-unborn baby.

Inquest Findings

Ison Harrison represented the family of Shane Gilmer at the subsequent Inquest, which took place in April 2021 at Hull Coroner’s Court. It found that Lawrence had broken into the couple’s home by dismantling an adjoining wall in the loft space which separated the two properties.  He then lay in wait for the couple to return from dinner at a local restaurant.

When the couple returned home Lawrence attacked them with the crossbow, first shooting Shane Gilmer in the side. The crossbow bolt broke his arm and ribs, damaged his liver and kidneys and became embedded in his spine. Lawrence then shot Ms Sugden in the head and attacked her by threatening to shove the crossbow bolt into her throat. Having pleaded with Lawrence to stop the attack for the sake of her unborn child, Ms Sugden then ‘played dead’ and believing that she would soon die, Lawrence suddenly halted the attack and fled.

Before he died, Shane Gilmer then begged Ms Sugden to flee to safety herself, and after she had done so he called the emergency services, but only after he had dragged himself downstairs to the phone because Lawrence had smashed up his mobile phone. Mr Gilmer was on the phone to the emergency services for 30 minutes and later died in hospital from a cardiac arrest.

Upon leaving the scene Lawrence drove off in his car, and after a manhunt was found dead in a motorhome parked in a layby on the North Yorkshire Moors two days later. He had taken an overdose.

The Inquest heard that a dispute had begun between the neighbours after Mr Gilmer and Ms Sugden had reported Lawrence to his letting agent because they suspected his use of Cannabis. Mr Lawrence was served with an eviction notice. Other disputes had also taken place over noise, resulting in violent threats. Mr Lawrence had previously been thrown out of the Territorial Army and had a history of violence and prison sentences. When the police searched his home they found three crossbows in his possession.

Inquest Verdict

A Jury sat through the Shane Gilmer Inquest and returned a unanimous verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ after one hour of deliberation. The Coroner, Professor Paul Marks, wrote in his report that there was a risk that future deaths would occur because the possession of crossbows was not recorded, unlike the use and possession of shotguns and other firearms. A letter was sent to the home secretary Priti Patel outlining this, but the Government response was that there was no interest in changing current regulations because incidents such as the death of Shane Gilmer were “rare”. Ison Harrison, in its campaign alongside Ms Sugden to change the laws relating to Crossbow use, has written to all 49 UK police forces to gather data on crossbow-related offences.

Ms Sugden welcomed the Coroner’s report and is supporting the campaign to change crossbow legislation, seeing it as a “positive step”. Ms Sugden gave birth to her baby daughter with Shane Gilmer in June 2018.

Read our Shane Gilmer Inquest News and Coverage: