Epsom College: Police cordon after family found dead
The headteacher of Britain’s top private school made a distress call a relative hours before she was shot dead by her husband. Emma Pattison, 45, placed the call from her home in the grounds of Epsom College.
Gunshots were heard in the early hours of Sunday before Emma, daughter Lettie, seven, and husband George, 39, were found dead by a family member. Police are treating the tragedy as a homicide investigation with officers fearing Mr Pattison shot his wife and child both before turning the gun on himself.
Surrey Police said: “Officers are confident there is no third-party involvement. A firearm was found at the scene [but] causes of death will not be confirmed until post-mortems have been completed.”
Officers confirmed they had recovered a gun – licensed and registered to Mr Pattison – from the cottage the family shared on school grounds.
Days earlier he informed the force about a change of address, as required under the terms of his firearms license. The force has referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Tributes continued to be paid to Mrs Pattison who was the first female head of Epsom College in its 250-year history.
The school announced it would shut for the rest of the week after learning the details of how Mrs. Pattison and her daughter died.
Mr Pattison, a management consultant, is believed to have held a firearms license for a number of years.
The notification of a change of address was a formality and he is said to have told the police the gun was stored safely and securely.
Emma and daughter Lettie killed by husband George
He is not believed to have had previous contact with the police other than an incident in 2016 when it is claimed he reported Mrs Pattison for allegedly hitting him.
She was spoken to by officers, but the complaint was withdrawn and no further action was taken.
The triple shooting and the suggestion of past friction with his wife are set to raise fresh questions about effective background checks into gun license holders after recent high-profile incidents.
A former firearms officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said last night: “Surrey Police are likely to come in for heavy criticism.
“That much is clear because they have referred themselves to the IOPC.
“Pattison had his license renewed and within days he appears to have shot his family dead.
“What we need to know is whether the necessary and thorough background and mental health checks were carried out.
“The granting of firearms licenses used to be a police job, now it is a civilian role. It’s a very responsible job but has been watered down in many forces. It used to be that officers spoke to doctors to get an inkling of anything untoward.
“There would be a Police National Computer check to flag up convictions, like drink driving, and an officer would pay a visit to see if a gun was secure and speak to the license holder. Clearly, this individual was disturbed but by what, no one knows.
“He may have slipped through the net.
“The focus will be on why he was granted a license – and more importantly why he needed a section 1 firearm.”
It comes as an inquest continues into the shotgun massacre carried out by Jake Davison, 22, who was granted a license despite a history of serious mental health problems.
He killed four people before turning the gun on himself in Plymouth in August 2021. The Epsom College tragedy took place close to the school’s rifle range.
It has a long and distinguished history of target rifle shooting.
But Surrey Police said the range, although initially cordoned off, did not form part of the crime scene and was not a line of inquiry.
Mrs Pattison, who grew up in Lincolnshire and graduated from Leeds University with a degree in French and English literature, was a widely respected school leader.
She was head of Croydon High School, an independent girls’ day school in south London, until last year. In December, she hinted how her success and life changes had caused some family upheaval.
Emma made a distress call a relative hours before the murder
During a light-hearted podcast with students Mrs Pattison said moving to Epsom College was a “really big change” for her family, who had just got a six-month-old labrador called Bella.
She added: “I’ve got a new job, my husband got a new job, which wasn’t meant to happen, but did, and my daughter has started a new school.”
Mrs Pattison took up her post in September and soon after Epsom College was named Independent School of the Year in 2022.
Known as an elite rugby school £42,000-a-year Epsom College alumni include England international Kyle Sinckler, broadcaster Jeremy Vine and royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell and teaches more than 950 boys and girls aged 11 to 18.
Detective Chief Inspector Kimball Edey, the senior investigating officer, said: “This is an incredibly traumatic incident and we are working around the clock to investigate and understand the exact circumstances which led to this point. We are cooperating fully with the IOPC in relation to the referral we have made, and we await the outcome of its assessment of what further action may be required.
“An investigation is being carried out to establish the full chronology and circumstances of the incident. At this stage, officers are confident there is no third-party involvement and there is no wider threat or risk to the community.”