A man looked ‘cold and professional’ as he turned a stolen rifle on an armed police officer after shooting dead his ex-wife, mother-in-law and pet dog, a court heard.
Police Sergeant Thomas Milne said he believed Craig Savage was going to shoot him when he saw him turn and ‘steadily’ point an M4 semi-automatic at him after being confronted in the street, jurors were told on Tuesday.
Moments before, the 35-year-old had calmly left a house in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, East Sussex, after allegedly shooting Michelle Savage, 32, Heather Whitbread, 53, and dog Zeus, in an ‘execution’-style killing at almost point blank range on March 16, Lewes Crown Court heard.
Sergeant Milne was one of five officers called to respond to reports of a man on the loose with the rifle after the deputy manager of a nearby firing range had been robbed at gunpoint.
As he and some of the uniformed team arrived in an unmarked police car, they heard on the police radio that Savage - who they were told had links to the address - had been seen shooting the window of the house.
CCTV shows him leaving the property and walking down the road, gun in hand, before Sgt Milne and Police Constable Jayan Shah appear behind him shouting: ‘Armed police. Stop.’
Sgt Milne, a firearms commander who has worked for Sussex Police for nine years, said: ‘He turned around and got down and as he did so he brought the rifle up to point at me.’
He said Savage locked eyes on him, reacting in a ‘professional manner’ as though he was ‘military officer’, adding: ‘When the male aimed the gun at me I believed he was going to shoot me.
‘He wasn't making unnecessary movements. He was cold and professional in the way he moved.
‘I didn't see or hear any shots.’
Meanwhile he was shouting to colleagues ‘get down’ and for passing drivers to ‘move’, the court heard.
Pc Shah told the court he dived for cover as he saw Savage turn 180 degrees to face the officers, adding: ‘I was completely convinced he had fired a single round in our direction.’
There was a lot of noise from passing traffic so he said he could not hear if there were any shots, but said Savage's ‘reactions were quick’ and the way he handled the gun ‘seemed professional’.
He added: ‘At the time I was 95% convinced. To this day I'm unsure if he shot at us.’
It was ‘too dangerous’ to enter the darkened car park into which Savage had disappeared until backup arrived, the court heard.
Savage, of no fixed address, denies two counts of murder and possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger life, but admits robbery.
Jurors heard when Savage arrived at the Target 1066 shooting range he lied to deputy manager Ryan Graves about being terminally ill.
Savage said he was ex-Forces and did not have long to live after being diagnosed with prostate cancer but firing at the shooting range was on his ‘bucket list’, Mr Graves said while giving evidence.
He also said he wanted to be ‘remembered as a man’.
After moving to a corner of the room not covered by CCTV and with ‘tears in his eyes’, he pointed the loaded gun at the chest of Mr Graves, who tried to reason with him.
According to Mr Graves, Savage said: ‘I'm sorry to do this, step away and let me go out’ before fleeing.
He is accused of using the gun to shoot Mrs Whitbread seven times and his ex-wife six times before killing the black and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier-type dog with a single shot in the back.
Savage says he tripped and the gun went off accidentally in a ‘complete accident’ after a struggle with Mrs Savage.
When questioned by police he said: ‘I didn't go to kill them. I just wanted her to watch the police kill me. I wanted her to see it.
‘She came at me like a freight train. She went straight for the weapon. I was just desperately trying to hold onto it.’
He denied trying to shoot at armed officers.
Alan Kent QC, defending, said Savage did not have cancer and his actions were ‘dangerous and unlawful’ but he did not have ‘homicide in his mind’, adding: ‘He needed her.’
The trial continues.