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Pregnant mum begged for life as crossbow maniac killed partner then shot her in head

A mum has told of her life-and-death struggle with a crossbow maniac who killed her partner and shot her in the head when she was five months pregnant.

Deranged neighbour Anthony Lawrence broke into Laura Sugden’s semi-detached house through a shared loft and then lay in wait for her and boyfriend Shane Gilmer.

Then he launched a murderous attack that could have come straight from a horror movie.

Miraculously, Laura and her unborn daughter survived.

In her first full interview, Laura tells how the birth of her now two-year-old daughter Ella healed her heart after she watched Shane’s life slip away.

Laura, 30, said: “I don’t think I’ll ever get over what happened but I have to be strong for Ella.

“I didn’t know how I was going to manage on my own but the minute Ella was born something in my heart healed.

Laura Sugden and her partner Shane Gilmer
Laura Sugden and her partner Shane Gilmer

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“She just looks exactly like her dad – it’s sometimes painful to look at her.

“I’ve told her Daddy is a star and she’ll ask, ‘My daddy loved me didn’t he?’

“Every milestone reminds me that Shane isn’t here, her first step, her first birthday and that will go on for ever.”

Laura is now campaigning for tighter regulations around crossbows, which can easily be bought online for around £150.

Her calls are backed by Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.

Police forensic officers at the scene of Shane Gilmer's murder and the home he shared with girlfriend Laura Sugden
Police forensic officers at the scene of Shane Gilmer’s murder

Describing the full terror of that night in January 2018, Laura told how she found Lawrence, 55, hiding in the bedroom of her then three-year-old daughter Isabelle who was away.

The former jailbird had previously threatened council housing ­officer Shane, 30, with an axe after the couple protested about his loud music.

And Lawrence was being evicted after they had complained to the landlord about cannabis fumes and suspected plant growing.

The couple had just got home after a Friday night at Gino D’Acampo’s restaurant in Hull when Laura saw a dark stain on the carpet under the loft hatch.

She gingerly pushed open the bedroom door to find Lawrence wearing a head torch in the dark room and pointing what she thought was a gun at her.

The crossbow used to murder Shane Gilmer
The crossbow used to murder Shane Gilmer

Horrified, she asked what he was doing in the house before shouting to Shane downstairs: “Don’t come up, he’s got a gun.”

Laura stepped back into her hallway and Lawrence pushed her into the main bedroom, shoving her on the bed before running back into the hall as Shane climbed the stairs.

Laura phoned 999 and hid her mobile in her denim pregnancy dress. She said: “I was terrified. It was surreal. I kept thinking this isn’t happening.

“Then I heard Shane saying, ‘What the f*** is that?’. The next thing I heard him moaning.”

Seconds later Lawrence dragged Shane into the room on his knees.

A crossbow bolt had gone through his right forearm and into his abdomen, damaging his liver and a kidney before embedding in his spine.

Laura asked: “Is that going to kill him?”

Anthony Lawrence was found dead days after the murder
Anthony Lawrence was found dead days after the murder

She vividly recalls Lawrence’s chilling, smirking reply: “Yes, and now I’m going to kill you too”.

Laura says: “That smirk was the only emotion he showed the whole time.”

As she begged for her life Lawrence said the attack was in revenge for ­getting him evicted – something he only knew by listening to them through the wall with a special device.

Begging for her life, she told Lawrence she was pregnant and cried: “We’ve got children.”

He simply stared at her, moved his hand in a talking motion and said “Blah, blah, f****** blah” before shooting her in the head.

Laura said: “Blood was gushing down my face and I felt dizzy. I heard Shane scream and I looked over at him. He was pale and crying.”

Laura found the strength to stand up and pull the bolt from her head as her neighbour left the room.

She went over to Shane and squeezed his hand. As Lawrence returned holding another crossbow bolt, she threw herself at him.

He straddled her on the floor and pushed the point into her neck.

Doctors later told her the wound was so deep they could see her voice box.

Yet the 5ft 2in mum managed to shove stocky Lawrence off her and pin him down, calling for help from Shane.

But Shane cried “I can’t” and Laura saw tears streaming down his face.

Pushing Laura off, Lawrence ran from the room.

Dismantling it brick by brick, creepy Anthony Lawrence made enough room to get from his house into the home of Laura Sugden and her partner Shane Gilmer.
Anthony Lawrence made enough room to get from his house into the home of Laura Sugden and her partner Shane Gilmer.

Shane told her to get help, saying: “If you don’t go and keep you and the baby safe I’ll never forgive you.”

“He was crying,” says Laura.

“He was gasping for breath. He looked at me, really looked at me, like the look someone gives you when they are going away for a long time and then told me, ‘Be strong, I love you’.”

Those were the last words Shane ever said to Laura.

Shaking with fear and barely able to see for the blood gushing from her head wound, she ran downstairs and grappled with three locks on her back door before running to a neighbour.

Her injuries were so bad they thought she had been in a car crash.

Laura Sugden leaves the inquest at Hull Coroner's Court.
Laura Sugden leaves the inquest at Hull Coroner’s Court

Meanwhile, Shane managed to make it downstairs and call 999.

An inquest in Hull last week into his death heard him tell the operator: “I love my children… Oh my God I really, really wanted this baby, I really wanted it. I feel like I’m fading. I’ve lost so much blood.”

Ambulance staff were unable to enter the house in the hamlet of Southburn near Driffield, East Yorks, until firearms officers made sure the scene was clear.

Laura believes without that delay Shane could have survived.

But the inquest ruled the delays in getting Shane to hospital were inevitable because of the remote location and a trauma specialist said the dad suffered devastating injuries.

Lawrence fled and was found dead from an overdose of painkillers in a camper van two days later on the A170 near East Layton, North Yorks.

Laura says she is relieved he is dead, adding: “I only wish I had killed him myself.”

Despite her grief Laura knows Shane would have wanted her to be happy and has been dating someone else on and off for a year.

But she adds sadly: “It’s hard for him because I’m still in love with Shane.

“We were madly in love and worked at the same place and were hardly ever apart. The honeymoon period never went away.”

“I don’t believe you ever get over something like this. I can’t imagine the grieving ever comes to an end.”

A plaque planted by Laura and Ella, 2, to remember Shane
A plaque planted by Laura and Ella, 2, to remember Shane

Laura Sugden is calling for tougher regulations on the sale of crossbows.

She said: “To acquire a shotgun you need a licence and if there’s any sign of mental health issues you can’t buy one.

“Yet you can go on eBay and buy a crossbow. They are lethal medieval weapons and Shane’s death is an example of what can happen if they fall into the hands of an angry person.”

Her lawyer Gemma Vine, of Ison Harrison, said: “Crossbows are powerful weapons that ought to require the same checks and licences as gun owners.”

In Britain, no licence or registration is needed to own a crossbow. Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has vowed to do “everything possible” to help Laura bring about change to regulate ownership.

Drug dealer Saghawat Ramzan, 47, used a crossbow to murder one man and kill his brother Waseem, 36, by mistake in Dudley, West Mids. He was jailed in February for 23 years.

In 2018, Mark Waterfall shot a GP with a crossbow in Watford.

The doctor survived. Waterfall got 20 years.



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