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'He changes like the devil': Cromer shotgun death victim's secret diary lifts lid on abuse by council leader husband

PUBLISHED: 12:42 24 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:37 24 September 2013

The wedding of Andrea and Keith Johnson.

The wedding of Andrea and Keith Johnson.

Archant Norfolk 2012

He was the jocular council leader who had a cheery word for everybody and was one of north Norfolk's most prominent figures.

But today - in news that will come as a shock to many people - we can reveal a shadow of domestic violence that hung over Keith Johnson’s life.

For while Mr Johnson, 58, and his vivacious 44-year-old wife Andrea were the life and soul of events in and around their Cromer home town, her private diaries, discovered after their death, revealed that he “changed like the devil”.

• Cromer double death inquest verdict

• Report reveals catalogue of domestic violence by Cromer council leader who shot his wife

• Harrowing quotes from Andrea Johnson’s private diary

• Key recommendations after the double shotgun death at Cromer

The poignant diary entries tell of a drink-fuelled catalogue of violent attacks and mental abuse during their 18-year “open” relationship, which saw both embark on long affairs.

And they lift the lid on her long struggle with mental illness, which culminated in November 2006 in an attempted suicide that was headed off when her parents John and Janice Chadwick popped in to visit her.

Mrs Johnson confided to her diary for years that she wanted to leave her husband, even before they were married in 2004.

But when the relationship finally broke up at the end of 2012, Mr Johnson called her back to their house for a meeting and shot her in the chest with the shotgun that she owned for clay pigeon shooting - before turning the gun on himself in their back garden.

The sad story is told in detail in a 37-page domestic violence homicide review, published by Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership at the end of today’s inquest.

The statutory report, which was completed in June before being cleared by the Home Office, was written by independent advisor and consultant Gaynor Mears after a detailed review by a host of people from local agencies.

The report’s aim was to establish the facts of the case - and to discover whether any lessons could be learnt to head off a similar incident in the future.

But, unlike in some reports, no finger of blame is pointed at any agencies that had contact with the couple.

Ms Mears, who chaired the Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership and penned the domestic violence homicide review into the death of Mrs Johnson, said: “The only person culpable in this is the person who pulled the trigger.

“What the agencies knew at the time wouldn’t have enabled them to predict what happened. If agencies had shared any blame, I would not have pulled any punches.”

The report said:

■ Mrs Johnson had regular contact with her GP and other health professionals as she sought treatment for mental illness. But the presence of her husband at most of the appointments meant she “could not disclose” about domestic abuse “even had she wanted to”.

■ Police were called to the family home at Compit Hills, near Cromer, on one occasion when an allegation was made of domestic abuse. But when they arrived, Mr Johnson denied that a call had been made and Mrs Johnson did not want to make a complaint.

■ Mrs Johnson disclosed to some friends that she had been abused by her husband for “some years”, but the information was not passed on to police.

Ms Mears made a series of recommendations to police and health officials, in a bid to educate more people about the signs of domestic abuse.

But even Mrs Johnson’s close relatives were apparently unaware of the cycle of abuse that was being carried out - a truth illustrated by how her parents John and Janice Chadwick readily forgave their son-in-law after the double death and agreed to a joint funeral last December.

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