St Leonards murder trial: ‘Indescribable hatred’ drove Craig Savage to murder, court is told

Craig Savage arriving at Lewes Crown Court
Craig Savage arriving at Lewes Crown Court

A former soldier was driven to murder his ex-wife and her mother by the ‘indescribable hatred’ he felt towards them, a court has heard.

Craig Savage, 35, of no fixed abode, denies murdering Michelle Savage, 32, and her mother Heather Whitbread, 53, at their home in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, on March 16.

He also denies a single charge of possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger life.

At Lewes Crown Court on Friday (October 26), Benjamin Aina QC, prosecuting, read the court a text Savage sent his father just before 7pm the day before the shooting (Thursday, March 15).

In the text, Savage said: “The hatred I have is indescribable. If she were a bloke...”

Mr Aina told the court it was this ‘indescribable hatred’ that took him to shoot his ex-wife and her mother the next day.

He said: “That indescribable hatred is what took you from Uttoxeter to the target fire range isn’t it?

“That indescribable hatred is what caused you to drive from the firing range to the car park at Bexhill Road isn’t it?

“That indescribable hatred caused you to shoot through the porch window and step into that home and shoot your mother-in-law in the back and shoot Michelle while she was helpless with her hands towards her face as described by Raven (Whitbread - Michelle’s sister).

“That indescribable hatred is what caused you to turn round and point the gun at police and point the trigger I suggest.

“That indescribable hatred is why you are in the witness box today giving your evidence. It’s all about you and not about Michelle or Heather or the dog or anyone else.”

The court has previously heard Savage, who spent three years in the army after he left school, bombarded his ex-wife with threatening emails and texts after their nine-year relationship and five-year marriage ended on February 12, 2018.

The court heard the defendant threatened to upload naked pictures of his wife to the internet if she refused to sleep with him one last time. When she refused, he went through with his threat on March 3, the court was told.

A week before the shootings - on the eve of Ms Savage’s birthday (March 7) - Savage slashed her car tyres and poured paint onto the vehicle, the court heard.

Beginning his closing statement, Mr Aina told the jury it is the prosecution’s argument that this case is all about revenge.

On Friday, Mr Aina, while cross-examining Savage, said: “You deliberately and intentionally killed Michelle because she refused to reconcile with you, didn’t you?

“You couldn’t take the rejection. You started off on around February 23 when she came up with the rest of your belongings with wanting to impose yourself upon her sexually. She told you where to go so you threatened her that if she didn’t do what you wanted there would be revenge porn that you would upload.

“On March 3, that’s exactly what you did. You uploaded revenge porn as a vengeance against your wife.

“That didn’t work did it. And so you lied about her giving you a new STD didn’t you and that didn’t work did it?

“The night of her birthday you chose to come all the way down from Uttoxeter to Hastings to pour paint on her car, the family car and slash the tyres. Spiteful. You wanted her to wake up on her birthday and see the cars damaged.

“Why did you choose that particular night? It was deliberate spite because you hated her and wanted to get back at her.”

Alan Kent QC, defending, told the jury Savage was ‘overwhelmed and overcome with emotion and grief’ during this time.

On the day of the shootings, the court was told, Savage drove from Uttoxeter to 1066 Target Sports - a shooting range in St Leonards.

Savage admits robbing Ryan Graves, a range manager at the complex, of an M4 semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle, while at the shooting range that day.

He then drove to Ms Savage’s address in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, where the shootings took place at 7.42pm, the court was told.

Savage claims he entered the property to kidnap Ms Savage and have police shoot him in front of her. However, once he got inside the window, he said a tussle with his wife ensued and the rifle went off ‘in every direction’.

Prosecutors claim he broke into the house to carry out the ‘cold-hearted execution’ of his wife and her mother.

Mr Aina told the jury: “Consider the timings of the shots.

“There were six shots, then a gap, then three shots, then another gap, then two more shots, then another gap, then three final shots.

“Why didn’t he drop the gun during those gaps if the gun was malfunctioning?”

The court was told Ms Savage was shot seven times at a downward trajectory.

A pathologist told the court Ms Whitbread was shot at her back six times. Prosecutors claim this showed she was running away from the shooter.

Ms Savage’s pet dog Zeus was found to have been shot once, the court was told.

In his closing statement, Mr Kent told the jury: “He (Savage) wanted to die that particular night because he was so broken.

“When he left the shooting range that night, he was talking about suicide not homicide.

“When he went to that gun range, he gave his real name, he wasn’t trying to hide.

“Police were told, shortly after he left this gun range, that this man wanted to die by suicide by cop. He took items into the house because he wanted to take his wife and have her watch him being killed in front of her - making her see what it was she had caused him to want to do because he was so broken and so desperate.

“The Crown can’t have it both ways. On one hand they are saying it was an execution, on another they are saying it was all going wrong.”

Approximately a minute after the shootings finished, Savage left the property and was pursued by armed police, the court was told.

Hearing something, Savage said he turned, dropped to his knee and looked down the side of his rifle ‘to see where the noise was coming from’.

Prosecutors claim Savage attempted to fire at the police but ‘luckily for them, the gun jammed’.

Asked by Mr Aina why he did not drop his firearm when confronted by the police, Savage said: “Because I was a little out of sorts you could say.”

Mr Aina claims Savage kept hold of his firearm to help him with his escape.

Savage was arrested by armed officers at the water’s edge near Glyne Gap at approximately 9.55pm.

Concluding his closing statement on Friday, Mr Aina told the jury: “We invite you to find him guilty of the murder of Michelle Savage, guilty of the murder of Heather Whitbread and guilty of endangering the lives of those police officers in the car park.”

Mr Kent, in his closing statement, said the case had all the hallmarks of a man who was on a ‘suicidal mission as opposed to a homicidal one’.

He added: “The appropriate and fair verdict will be manslaughter and possession of the firearm, not to endanger life. That rifle was broken, as was the defendant.”

Savage denies murder.

The trial continues.

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