Home News Gun dealer blasted wife with shotgun after becoming ‘psychotic’ during lockdown

Gun dealer blasted wife with shotgun after becoming ‘psychotic’ during lockdown

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Image shows a photo of Silke Hartshorne-Jones, who was shot by husband Peter Hartshorne-Jones, and police officers outside their home in Barham, near Ipswich, Suffolk.
Silke Hartshorne-Jones was killed by her husband during lockdown (Picture: East Anglia News)

A man who shot his wife with a shotgun has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after claiming a psychotic breakdown caused his actions.

Registered gun dealer Peter Hartshorne-Jones blasted his corporate solicitor Silke with a 12 bore shotgun in a bedroom at their 17th century home of Chestnut Farm in Barham, near Ipswich, Suffolk, in May.

After his arrest and initial charge for murder, prosecutors have now accepted the husband, 51, was suffering from ‘an abnormality of mental functioning’ at the time of the shooting, which occurred during lockdown.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that their two children were in the house at the time of the shooting, and had been present for ‘the aftermath’.

Hartshorne-Jones called emergency services at 4.45am on May 3 to report that he had shot his German-born wife, allegedly telling police: ‘I am sorry, I don’t know what came over me.’

Later, he was reported to have said he ‘didn’t mean to kill her’. Ipswich Crown Court was told this week that he had been suffering from a depressive illness for a long period which had been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE, tel. 07767 413379 Corporate lawyer Silke Hartshorne-Jones who died after being shot at her home in Barham, Suffolk EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE, tel. 07767 413379 With pics Police have launched a murder inquiry after the wife of a gun dealer was shot dead at her farmhouse home early today (sun). The victim was named locally as corporate solicitor Silke Hartshorne-Jones who was aged in her early 40s and had twin sons aged eight. She was shot in the early hours today at her 17th century home where she lived with her husband Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 51, and her sons Police said they were called at around 4.45am to reports that a woman had been shot at Grade Two listed Chestnut Farm in Barham near Ipswich, Suffolk. Mrs Hartshorne-Jones was found in a critical condition with serious injuries in the detached house, and taken by ambulance to Ipswich Hospital, but was pronounced dead a short time later. Police confirmed that a 51-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of murder. He is currently being questioned at the Police investigation Centre n Bury St Edmunds. Mr Hartshorne-Jones runs his own business called Hartshorne Fine English Shotguns selling what his website describes as ?the finest sporting English and Scottish shotguns?. He also has a recruitment company providing staff for the catering industry. One villager described Mrs Hartshorne-Jones who was German as ?friendly? and ?a devoted mother? to her sons Henry and Harry The local resident who asked not to be named, added: ?What has happened is just awful beyond words. It is the last thing you expect in a peaceful village like this.? Neighbour Kevin Terry, 53, said: ?We did not hear anything at all last night, but we woke up to all the police activity. ?The police came round to ask if we had hear anything, but we were unable to help. ?She and her husband used to argue quite a bit. You would quite often hear them arguing. ?She was quite a stern and forthright person ? a typical German really. But she spoke excellent English with only a bit of an accent ?He was a very English character who liked to wear a flat cap, and a Barbour jacket, and he had a collection of multi-coloured corduroy trousers. ?When they moved in a couple of weeks after we bought our house, one of the first things he asked me was, ?Do you shoot?? I don?t so that was the end of the conversation. ?He worked from home and always boasted that he had three different companies including his gun company and recruitment business. ?I know he sold guns from the house and he had a secure gun cupboard. ?I used to see Silke every Sunday when she would walk up to the village green. She would always wave and say hello.? Mr Terry who works as a surveyor said he had seen an ambulance arrive at Chestnut Farm at 2.15am soon after lockdown started. He added: ?There was an ambulance at the house twice more over the next few days. On each occasion the paramedics were there quite a long time. ?We didn?t see Peter after that so the assumption was that he was ill or something. We did not see him outside at all during lockdown. She was doing all the shopping and gardening.? Land Registry records reveal that Mr and Mrs Hartshorne-Jones bought their home including a one acre paddock for ?460,000 in October 2015. Mrs Hartshorne-Jones worked as a lawyer for technology company K2 Partnering Solutions according to her Linked In profile. Her profile described her job as being in charge of the company?s ?legal and compliance function? across Europe. A Suffolk Police statement said: ?Police were called shortly before 4.45am today, Sunday 3 May, to reports a woman had been shot within a property. ?On arrival at the premises, officers discovered a woman, aged in her 40s, inside who had suffered serious injuries. ?She was transported to Ipswich Hospital via ambulance in a critical condition, where she sadly died a short time later. ?A 51-year-old man was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder and was taken to Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre for questioning. ?A police cordon is in place at the property while an investigation is carried out.? Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact South CID, quoting crime reference: 37/24434/20 Website ? http://www.suffolk.police.uk/contact-us/existing-report-update Crimestoppers ? Contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111, or via their online form: www.crimestoppers-uk.org Phone ? Call 101 Ends, seeking more
Silke Hartshorne-Jones was a corporate solicitor and mother of two (Picture: East Anglia News Service)

Prosecutor Peter Gair said a report by consultant psychiatrist Frank Farnham, acting for the prosecution, had recognised the defendant’s ‘abnormality of mental functioning’ with ‘psychotic symptoms’ at the time of the killing.

However, it found ‘no evidence that he was legally insane at the time’ or incapable of having the intention to kill his wife.

An earlier hearing was told that Hartshorne-Jones had made multiple calls to a health professional in the 42 days from March 16 to April 27, resulting in 29 ‘call outs’ to his home by paramedics and other medical staff.

He claimed the defendant made the calls because he believed he had physical ailments, although the reason was ‘wholly or partly’ due to his mental impairment.

Mr Gair said: ‘My understanding is that he had a long term depressive illness that was exacerbated in the coronavirus period.’

EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE, tel. 07767 413379 Police at the scene after gun dealer Peter Hartshorne-Jones shot dead his corporate lawyer wife Silke at their farmhouse in Barham, Suffolk EAST ANGLIA NEWS SERVICE, tel. 07767 413379 With pics A registered gun dealer who shot dead his corporate lawyer wife at their farmhouse home will not stand trial for her murder, it was revealed today. Prosecutors accepted that Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 51, was suffering from ???an abnormality of mental functioning??? at the time of the shooting during lockdown. Ipswich Crown Court that he had been suffering from a depressive illness for a long period which had been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Hartshorne-Jones had denied the murder of his wife Silke, 41, at an earlier hearing, but pleaded guilty to her manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. Prosecutors ruled that his plea was acceptable at a hearing today, meaning he will only be sentenced for the lesser offence of manslaughter. Hartshorne-Jones who had a shotgun licence was warned by Judge Martyn Levett that he faced a ???lengthy??? prison sentence. The court heard how two children were in the house when he blasted his wife twice with a 12 bore shotgun in a bedroom at their 17th century home Chestnut Farm in Barham near Ipswich, Suffolk. The children were said to have witnessed ???the aftermath??? of the shooting. Hartshorne-Jones dialled 999 within minutes of the shooting or up to an hour afterwards at 4.45am on May 3 to report that he had shot his German-born wife. He allegedly told police: ???I am sorry, I don???t know what came over me???. He was said to have stated later: ???I didn???t mean to kill her???. Mrs Hartshorne-Jones was in a critical condition and taken by ambulance to Ipswich Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 6.40am the same day. A post mortem found she died of a shotgun wound to the chest. At the time of her death, her husband sold vintage shotguns for game shooting and ran a recruitment agency hiring staff for the catering industry. His website called Hartshorne Fine English Shotguns said he sold ???the finest sporting English and Scottish shotguns.??? Mrs Hartshorne-Jones worked as a lawyer for technology company K2 Partnering Solutions.Her Linked In profile described her job as being in charge of the company???s ???legal and compliance function??? across Europe. Neighbours said at the time that she used to commute to work, leaving her ??600,000 home at 5.30am every weekday and not returning until the evening, but she had been at home since lockdown started. Prosecutor Peter Gair said a report by consultant psychiatrist Frank Farnham acting for the prosecution, had recognised the defendant???s ???abnormality of mental functioning??? with ???psychotic symptoms??? at the time of the killing. But the report by Dr Farnham found ???no evidence that he was legally insane at the time??? or incapable of having the intention to kill his wife. Mr Gair added: ???The Crown have considered the available evidence, in particular the psychiatric evidence obtained by both the Crown and the defence.??? He said that the reports by the two psychiatrists and other evidence meant that Hartshorne-Jones??? defence to murder ???would be proved more likely than not at trial.??? Mr Gair said: ???Bearing in mind all the circumstances, we are prepared to accept the plea that was entered, and not proceed with a trial for murder.??? He added that relatives of Mrs Hartshorne-Jones who were listening to the hearing on a video link had been earlier informed of the decision by police so they ???were not taken by surprise???. An earlier hearing was told that Hartshorne-Jones had made multiple calls to health professional in the 42 days from March 16 to April 27, resulting in 29 ???call outs??? to his home by paramedics and other medical staff. He claimed that Hartshorne-Jones made the calls because he believed he had physical ailments, although the reason was ???wholly or partly??? due to his mental impairment. Mr Gair said: ???My understanding is that he had a long term depressive illness that was exacerbated in the coronavirus period.??? The court heard that he had refused to take medication he had been prescribed. Hartshorne-Jones appeared in the dock wearing a grey sweatshirt and blue Umbro tracksuit bottoms and spoke only to confirm his name. He sat with his head bowed throughout the hearing. The case was adjourned for sentencing in the week beginning on January 11 next year to allow further psychiatric reports on the degree of ???dangerousness??? he posed and whether he intended to kill his wife. Mr Gair said that the use of the gun and the presence of children in the house was an aggravating factor. The court heard that Hartshorne-Jones was claiming he had no memory of the shooting. Judge Levett told him: ???It is clear to me that you are prepared for a prison sentence which may be a lengthy one bearing in mind the incident, the firearm being used and the presence of children.??? ends
Police at the scene after gun dealer Peter Hartshorne-Jones shot dead his corporate lawyer wife Silke at their farmhouse in Barham, Suffolk (Picture: East Anglia News Service)

Due to these circumstances, the prosecution decided not to proceed with a trial for murder and accepted the guilty plea of manslaughter.

Hartshorne-Jones sat with his head bowed in court, and only spoke to confirm his name.

The case was adjourned for sentencing in the week beginning on January 11 next year to allow further psychiatric reports on the degree of ‘dangerousness’ he posed and whether he intended to kill his wife.

At the time of the incident, neighbours spoke of their shock at the situation, with one describing the shooting as ‘the last thing you expect in a peaceful village like this’.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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