Cromer: Family Call Man Who Shot His Wife 'A Monster'

24 September 2013, 16:02 | Updated: 24 September 2013, 16:25

The family of a woman, shot dead by her husband in Cromer, have described him as a 'monster'.

A respected council leader would "change like the devil'' behind closed doors, subjecting his wife to a decade of abuse before shooting her dead, a report has found.

Keith Johnson, 58, leader of North Norfolk District Council and former Cromer mayor, killed his wife Andrea, 44, before turning the gun on himself at their bungalow in December.

Residents of the seaside town were left in shock at the death of couple, described as high profile, well-liked and active members of the community.

An inquest this morning ruled the couples death were a suicide and unlawful killing.

Outside the Coroner's Court Andrea's family had statement's read out by a victim support officer. In the statement's they describe him as a 'Jekyll and Hyde character' and a 'monster'.

Cromer - John and Jan Chadwick - Andrea's Parents

Cromer - Brian Chadwick - Andrea's Brother

Cromer - Andrea's Sister and family

Following the conclusion of the inquest, a Domestic Violence Homicide Review examining how police, health bodies and other organisations handled the case, was published.

It describes how Mrs Johnson had suffered years of abuse in silence, only revealed in a harrowing diary discovered after her death.

The report's author, Gaynor Mears, said those who knew the couple may have failed to spot warning signs as they were blinded by their public image.

She added that professionals needed to learn to "suspend disbelief'' when dealing with people with a high profile.

Referring to the couple only as Mr B and Mrs A, she added: "His public persona and high standing in the community may have made it unthinkable that he was abusing Mrs A in the privacy of their own home.

"Indeed there is still incredulity in some quarters that Mr B shot Mrs A then took his own life.''

The diary kept by Mrs Johnson since 2004 was discovered by the investigation.

In one of the earliest entries, written in March of that year, she said: "He doesn't seem bothered he is hurting me, said I either like it or lump it, he ain't going to change.''

Later she described how he would "change like the devil'' when they were alone and in another entry said: "He's done it so often it doesn't matter.''

The report describes how the couple had been together since 1994, marrying in 2004.

They were in an "open relationship'' with both having affairs.

Witnesses told the inquiry that he treated Mrs Johnson, described as younger and attractive, as a "trophy wife''.

She suffered from depression and tried to take her own life with an overdose of anti-depressants and alcohol in 2006.

After this, she confided in friends that she was considering leaving her husband but nothing came of this.

She rang the police in August 2011 in a distressed state and told the operator "help me''.

When officers arrived, Mr Johnson said he would call a senior officer, adding "he will sort this out''.

The officers refused to let him do this but when they spoke to Mrs Johnson she told them they only had a "verbal altercation''.

After this incident, she wrote in her diary: "He hit me a lot. He went to town.''

The day before the killing, Mr Johnson asked his wife to leave the house because he believed she was impeding his career.

She went to stay with a man who she was in a relationship with.

The next day Mr Johnson asked her to come back to the house to talk things through but was lying in wait, ready to shoot her with her own shotgun.

He had left instructions on the disposal of the estate and for their funeral. Three unspent cartridges were found by his side.

Concluding the report, Ms Mears said: "There is a tendency to think that domestic abuse does not happen in affluent areas and it does not happen in relationships such as Mrs A's and Mr B's.

"This case graphically demonstrates how the public face of an individual can be very different to the one behind closed doors.

"The phrase 'it doesn't happen here' needs to be dispelled and information needs to be available across the county for professionals, families, friends and colleagues to help them identify domestic abuse.''