Photo: From dream wedding to double shotgun death - why did Cromer killings happen?

PUBLISHED: 10:55 04 December 2012 | UPDATED: 17:07 04 December 2012

The wedding of Andrea and Keith Johnson.
PHOTO: submit

The wedding of Andrea and Keith Johnson. PHOTO: submit

Archant Norfolk 2012

Signing the register after their “dream” church wedding in 2004, Keith and Andrea Johnson are a picture of happiness.

And just four days ago, the couple were talking of returning to New York to buy an eternity ring to go with the wedding ring he bought for her in the Big Apple.

But within 48 hours, Mr Johnson took one of his wife’s shotguns, murdered her in their neighbour’s garden - then walked to their back garden and shot himself dead.

Today, as the Cromer and Norfolk communities try to make sense of their sudden and explosive deaths, there is just one question - “why?”

● Why did this apparently affable pillar of society suddenly snap?

● Why did a larger-than-life, seemingly happy couple’s marriage end in such a shocking outbreak of violence?

Yesterday, the Rev Canon Dr David Court, vicar of Cromer, who married Mr and Mrs Johnson on May 1 2004, recalled that they were the first divorced couple that he had conducted a service for at the parish church.

He said: “They were both really excited. They were the first couple I had married who had been married before. They were so thankful that they could have the service in the church, which they had never thought possible.”

He recalled a “wonderful reception” at Cromer Hall, the home of landowner Benji Cabbell-Manners, with “drinks on the lawn” amid a “fabulous atmosphere”.

Mr Court, who said there would be an opportunity for people to light a candle in the couple’s memory in the parish church prayer chapel, was surprised and perplexed at what had happened.

He said: “Keith was the right kind of local councillor who was in in not for party political reasons but because he wanted to contribute to the town.

“Andrea was somebody who totally supported him and was by his side at all the big events.”

Mr Johnson, who became leader of North Norfolk District Council earlier this year, was in his usual jovial mood on Friday when posing for EDP pictures to advertise the offloading of the NNDC annexe.

On Wednesday evening, the couple were in fine form as they laughed and chatted to other guests at a reception ahead of the opening of Waitrose at North Walsham.

A media briefing was held by DCI Andy Guy at Cromer police station yesterday afternoon, during which he was able to answer many of the questions about how the double death happened - but not why.

He said: “We are not seeking anybody else in connection with these offences. We believe Mr Johnson shot his wife and took his own life in the rear garden of his home address.”

He said Mrs Johnson, 44, was a registered holder of four shotguns, one of which was used to kill her before Mr Johnson went into his back garden at 39 Compit Hills and shot himself.

But he said mystery remained over why the double killing happened, and urged members of the public to make contact with any information.

DCI Guy said a nearby resident at Compit Hills had called police at 2.50pm.

He said: “A member of the public heard what they thought was a car crash and leaned out of the window and saw Mrs Johnson lying in the front garden of 41 Compit Hills.”

He was “not aware of anything that might have highlighted that something serious was about to happen”.

Yesterday, there was an eerie silence at the close where the popular couple died.

Police tape was sealing off three bungalows - number 39, where Mr and Mrs Johnson lived, and numbers 41 and 43.

In the front gardens of numbers 41 and 43, there were white scenes of crime tents erected.

At the press conference DCI Guy explained that paramedics and police had moved Mrs Johnson’s body from number 41 to number 43 to “a more secure spot”.

He added that police had advised the owners of number 41 to “stay with friends for a while”, saying: “I can only imagine how horrific it was to find their neighbour lying dead in their front garden.”

Mrs Johnson’s Porsche Boxster was parked on the couple’s front lawn, with Mr Johnson’s Mercedes E220 on the driveway.

Derek Houlston, who lives with David Bailey in a bungalow behind the Johnsons, said: “We took the dog out on Saturday morning and saw Keith at the bottom of the road doing his paper round.

“I said ‘morning, Keith’, and he looked so down and miserable. It was not like him - he usually had some banter.

“It’s so sad when something like this happens. It makes me ask ‘why’?”

A near neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said her husband had heard a single shot ring out at about 2.50pm on Sunday. She said: “I didn’t find out what happened until this morning. They were quiet, friendly people. I’m feeling awful today.”

The bodies, which were kept under scenes of crime tents for a while, are now at a mortuary at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The results of a post mortem examination are expected today.

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