By STEVE DOWNES
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
A former town mayor made a desperate call to his closest friends seconds after shooting dead his wife - asking them to pick up and care for the tragic couple’s constant companion, Alfred the lurcher.
North Norfolk District Council leader Keith Johnson also told Les and Jean Amis, who are Cromer funeral directors, to call the police, before hanging up.
But by the time Mr Amis had made the five-minute dash to the couple’s home at Compit Hills near Cromer, Mr Johnson had shot himself in his back garden.
Yesterday, Mr Amis and his wife Jean opened their hearts to the EDP - speaking of their “deep shock” at the double death and the long and “wonderful” friendship the four of them had shared.
They have also provided a temporary home for Alfred, who is being made welcome by their two other dogs and five cats before eventually going to live with Mrs Johnson’s parents, John and Jan Chadwick.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Johnson’s three cats - Eddie, Boo and Henry - are still at their home, being fed by police who are guarding the property.
Earlier, a post mortem examination confirmed that Keith and Andrea Johnson died from gunshot wounds after the incident at about 2.50pm on Sunday, which has shattered the peace of the coastal community.
Police were this morning expected to lift the cordon from the couple’s bungalow, number 39, and the neighbouring homes, number 41 and 43 - enabling the immediate neighbours, who reported the incident to police after seeing Mrs Johnson lying dead in their front garden, to return home after being advised to stay away for a few days.
Mr and Mrs Amis, who run Cromer and District Funeral Services and live at Roughton Road, Cromer, got to know the Johnsons over the last 15 years after meeting them at an party at The Dolphin in Cromer after the annual Christmas lights-up in the town.
They regularly socialised together, and took a number of overseas holidays - including to Fuerteventura, Tenerife, numerous cruises and a trip to New York in 2004 - during which Mr Johnson bought Mrs Johnson’s wedding ring from Tiffany’s.
Mrs Amis revealed that she was the last person to talk to Mr Johnson - fielding a frantic call as the deadly drama played out.
He said: “Keith rang me just before he killed himself. He said: ‘Tell Les to get Alfred from the house and call the police’.
“I told Les to get up there quick because Keith was in a state.”
Mr Amis said: “When I got there, I couldn’t get in to get Alfred. I knocked on the door and couldn’t get anybody to hear. Then I heard a siren and a paramedic arrived.
“The paramedic went to number 41, and I stuck my head round the corner and saw Andrea lying on the driveway. I brought the neighbour away from the scene and the police arrived.”
The couple said they wanted people to know how special their friends were.
Mr Amis said: “They were such good friends and we are both still in shock because we haven’t had time to think about what happened. We didn’t have so much as an inkling about anything that might have been going on to cause this.”
Mr Johnson was mayor of Cromer from 1997 to 2004, and Mrs Amis said Mrs Johnson “loved being the first lady”, and “backed him up in everything he did”.
She said: “They always dressed for the occasion and would always go the extra mile for people.”
Mr Amis said: “Andrea had a funny way of saying things. She got things wrong sometimes, and we called them ‘Andrea-isms’. She should’ve been a natural blonde.
“She was bubbly and caring and thought the world of Alfred.”
Mr Amis said: “She would always try to help people, even if she had a problem herself. People were drawn to her.”
Mr and Johnson were both divorcees, and Mr Johnson has three sons from his first marriage - Stuart, Kevin and Neil.
Mrs Amis said that when Mr Johnson became a grandfather, Mrs Johnson “was so chuffed to be called ‘nanny’.”
Mrs Johnson worked at Homebase in Cromer, doing customer service and sales, but had a recent health issue that meant she was facing an operation in the next six months.
Mrs Amis said the couple’s wedding day on May 1 2004 was “lovely”. She said: “Keith was so nervous, and wanted us to look after his mum. We put green and yellow ribbons on the wedding car.
“We all went to Cromer Hall for the reception, then afterwards went on to Cromer Country Club, and Les picked up a pizza on the way there. I had been to the florist and got some old red roses and candles.
“I filled their bath up with water, foam and petals and said to Andrea ‘where’s Keith?’ He was already asleep, so Andrea had the bath to herself.”
Mr Amis said the Johnsons visited them “three or four times a week”. A few days ago, they had all sat in the Amis’ hot tub in their back garden “looking at the stars”.
Mr and Mrs Amis had been looking forward to hosting their friends on Christmas Day, as they did last year, and enjoying “a quiet day together”.
Mrs Amis said: “We are absolutely devastated and shocked. I keep crying. I cannot believe it has happened.”