Woman who survived crossbow attack that killed her partner calls for tougher regulation

By John Mercury March 9, 2024

A woman whose partner was murdered by a neighbour armed with a crossbow is calling on the government to tighten restrictions on the weapons.

Laura Sugden and Shane Gilmer were attacked by their neighbour Anthony Lawrence in 2018, when he broke into their East Yorkshire home and shot them both with a crossbow.

Laura, who was pregnant at the time, was injured in the attack but she and the couple’s unborn daughter survived.

The attacker was later found dead.

Anyone aged over 18 can possess a crossbow but, following a review, the Home Office has launched a call for evidence – a request for public feedback – over whether people should need a licence to have one.

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Grief after crossbow death of partner

It represents a significant moment for Ms Sugden, who has been campaigning on the issue since Shane’s death.

“There’s nothing I would love more than to see some kind of guidance brought in around crossbows,” she said.

“It’s scary to think that anybody can just get hold of them over the age of 18 and I feel like it’s the last thing that I can do for Shane, to try and push for them to be brought in line with firearms.”

After the inquest into Shane’s death, the coroner raised his concern about the lack of controls on crossbows in a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to the Home Office.

The Home Office responded that the current laws struck the correct balance.

But the home secretary announced a review after an intruder was caught entering the grounds of Windsor Castle with a crossbow on Boxing Day 2021 intending to kill the late Queen.

Laura Sugden and Shane Gilmer. They were attacked when a man broke into their home with a crossbow in 2018. Shane was killed.
Image:
Laura Sugden and Shane Gilmer

The prospect of legislation has alarmed those who use crossbows for legitimate sporting reasons. Archery is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK.

Raynor Pepper, a competitive archer who helps run courses and sales at Phoenix Archery in Burnley, Lancashire, said: “You’ve probably got some garden tools that are far more dangerous.

“Anything in the wrong hands is going to be a weapon and perceived as such. So where does it stop?”

She said a growing number of people sought exercise and social contact through archery.

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Ms Pepper added: “I’m just worried that something like this would narrow that for them and that would change their lives.

“To be honest, any gun crime that’s committed is not committed by a licensed gun owner, so what is it going to change?”

Ms Sugden said she was shocked by the easy availability of crossbows online.

For her and the daughter born a few months after Shane’s death, new legislation would be a vindication of her campaign.

“My only hope and wish is that no family has to go through, because of that weapon, anything that my family and Shane’s family have,” she said.

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