A man accused of murdering his ex-wife and her mother in St Leonards told police he was the person who was meant to die – ‘not them’, a court has been told.
On Wednesday (October 24), Lewes Crown Court was shown Craig Savage’s first interview with Sussex Police from March 17, 2018 - the day after he was alleged to have murdered his ex-wife Michelle Savage, 32, and her mother Heather Whitbread, 53, in Bexhill Road, St Leonards.
Mr Savage, 35, of no fixed abode, denies their murders.
In his first interview with Sussex Police, Mr Savage said: “It was not supposed to happen. It was me that was supposed to die, not them.
“I wanted to die. I wanted the police to kill me. I just wanted her to watch but I f***** it up.
“I fell and the weapon discharged and it all erupted. She (Michelle Savage) came charging at me. We were wrestling with the weapon. She is strong.
“The weapon went off so many times in so many different directions.”
Mr Savage said he entered the Bexhill Road property via the porch window on the day of the shootings (March 16, 2018).
He told police he sliced his leg on the glass, causing him to ‘trip and stumble’ before the weapon went off.
He added: “I just tried to hold on to the weapon and it was just going everywhere, every direction.”
Mr Savage told police he drove to Bexhill Road on March 16 with the intention of getting Michelle Savage to get in his car before driving off somewhere and have police kill him in front of her.
He added: “I wanted her to see it. I was gonna get in the car with her and I was gonna go somewhere quiet and I was gonna call the police.
“My phone was in my car. I’d call the police, we’d just tell them where I am and say come and get me and I was hoping that they’d just turn up and shoot on sight. I wanted to be stuck in her memory, for her to realise what she’d done to me and what she’d taken from me. I wanted her to feel that.”
In the interview, Mr Savage said he drove from his friend’s house in Aldershot to Sussex on the day of the shooting and stopped at 1066 Target Sports ‘to let off some steam’ at the shooting range.
Mr Savage has admitted to robbing 1066 Target Sports of an M4 semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle on the day of the shooting.
In his interview on March 17, he told police: “I told him (the employee at 1066 Target Sports) that I was taking it. Then I opened up the door and walked out, got in my car, started driving.”
Mr Savage said he put the rifle on the passenger’s seat of his car and drove straight to Ms Savage’s address, parked ‘two doors away’ and used the rifle to break in the property by shooting the base of the window with two rounds.
He claimed he did not know who would be in the house that night but was aware of who lived there.
Once inside the property, Mr Savage told police he, Ms Savage and Mrs Whitbread ended up in the hallway as they were wrestling with the rifle which was ‘going off uncontrolled’.
Mr Savage told police: “I fell on my arse and Michelle sort of fell forward into the living room. She was face down in the living room next to the fire.
“I looked at her eyes and told her ‘I’m sorry’. I didn’t know what to do.
“I walked away not knowing what to do. My head was still backwards and upside down.”
Mr Savage told police Mrs Whitbread was lying down in the hallway. He claimed she had been standing while he and his ex-wife wrestled but when he stood up she was lying down.
Mr Savage said he did not try to assist Ms Savage in any way before leaving the house via the front door.
Benjamin Aina QC, prosecuting, alleges Mr Savage entered the Bexhill Road property on March 16, 2018, to carry out a ‘cold-hearted execution of his wife and mother-in-law’ because his ex-wife had refused to reconcile their marriage which she had ended on February 12, 2018.
At Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday (October 24), the jury was also played footage from a police helicopter showing armed officers engaging with Mr Savage, who was walking along the water’s edge opposite the underpass near Glyne Gap beach at 9.57pm – approximately two hours after the shootings.
The footage shows PC Phillip Felton, from the tactical firearms unit, tasering the suspect before further armed officers move in and arrest him.
In a statement read to the court, PC Felton said he and approximately seven other armed officers were alerted by the police helicopter, of a person walking close to the water’s edge.
In his statement, he said armed officers moved towards the suspect and, with the help of torches coming from the officers’ firearms, PC Felton recognised the suspect as being Craig Savage having been supplied a picture of him from the police intelligence system when first alerted of an active shooter in St Leonards.
PC Felton said: “(Craig Savage) was in possession of a long-barrelled weapon hanging down from his jacket.
“He ignored our requests to stop and appeared to reach his right arm down to the rifle which caused the rifle to fall to the floor and land on the pebbles of the beach. It was still in reach of the suspect and it would have taken only a small movement to pick it up.
“I set my taser to fire at Craig Savage’s torso. Believing he still possessed a credible threat I engaged with the suspect and fired my taser. He fell to the floor. My colleagues moved forward and waited five seconds for the taser to end, before placing him under arrest.”
On Wednesday, the jury at Lewes Crown Court also heard from ballistics expert Robert Griffiths.
Having confirmed he had listened to enhanced audio from the night of the shootings, Mr Griffiths told the court: “In my opinion, (the gun fire) is more consistent with deliberate shots being fired because of the pattern of the shots.
“The shots appear to be grouped. We have five separate groups. Each shot lasting a small time with a gap between these shots.”
Mr Griffiths was asked whether there was any suggestion of damage to the rifle, to which he said: “There was none whatsoever.”
Benjamin Aina QC, prosecuting, asked what might happen to a semi-automatic rifle if it was to malfunction.
Mr Griffiths said: “One shot would be fired or the weapon would go into fully automatic mode until the magazine was depleted.”
Mr Griffiths said a rifle of the nature used in the shootings would be capable of firing a rate of 600 rounds per minute or ten rounds per second if malfunctioning into fully-automatic mode.
He added: “If this weapon were to function in fully automatic mode, it would be so fast we would struggle to distinguish the sound of each shot.
“With a weapon of this type, a magazine of 30 cartridges would be fully expended in about two seconds. The noise one would get would be akin to somebody blowing a raspberry but much louder.”
Mr Aina also asked Mr Griffiths what would happen if a rifle of the nature used on March 16 fired a shot ‘accidentally’.
Mr Griffiths said the user would either drop the weapon or look at it ‘dumbfounded’.
Mr Griffiths told the court he had tested the rifle by bashing it and hitting it with a hammer and mallet, to see if the trigger could be fired without pressure being applied.
Mr Griffiths said the weapon ‘did not discharge without pressure being applied to the trigger’.
Mr Savage, who did not attend court on Wednesday, denies two counts of murder as well as a single charge of possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger public life.
He has pleaded guilty to robbing a semi-automatic rifle from 1066 Target Sports on the day of the shooting.
The trial at Lewes Crown Court continues.