Thursday, April 08, 2010

Secret Facebook Romance Leads to Execution

Jealous ex-boyfriend executed mother and daughter, 4, after discovering Facebook romance

A secret affair started on Facebook may have provoked a shooting which left three
people dead, an inquest heard yesterday.

Andrew Copland shot his former partner Julie Harrison and their four-year-old daughter Maisie before turning the gun on himself.

A coroner heard the 56-year-old painter and decorator may have killed them after discovering Miss Harrison was having a relationship with an old schoolfriend.

The bloodbath was discovered after a neighbour dialled 999 after seeing 40-year-old Miss Harrison desperately banging on the inside of a window.

The inquest heard that she had moved out of Copland’s home in Aldershot into a flat in the Hampshire town.

Her new boyfriend, Lee Johnston, told the inquest he had regained contact with Miss Harrison through the Facebook website.

They were together on the morning of the day she died, December 29, and he had been due to meet her again after she dropped Maisie off at her father’s home.

Mr Johnson said: ‘She had told me Andrew had been violent on a number of occasions. He had punched her and pushed her down the stairs.’

He said he and Miss Harrison had gone to great lengths to keep their relationship a secret from Copland.

She had a mobile phone which she used only to contact Mr Johnston.

He said: 'She did not want Andrew to find out because she was scared of what he might do. She thought that he would be violent to her and any man that she was seeing.’

Mr Johnston, who lives in Northampton, said that when she failed to answer his phone calls he drove to Copland’s home and found it cordoned off by police.

Neighbour Rachel Southon told how she heard Copland bolt the door – and seconds later saw Miss Harrison fall to the floor.

She said: 'I saw the back of Andrew through the glass. Then he disappeared and I saw Julie banging on the window. She fell back as if he had hit her with something. At that point I phoned the police.’

Maisie was found dead in the dining room and Copland in the hallway. Miss Harrison was still alive and was flown to hospital but died the following day.

Coroner Andrew Bradley heard that ballistic tests revealed that all three were shot by a 9mm 1930s Baretta handgun, which Copland had found in a builder’s skip in Surrey in 1998, complete with ammunition.

He ruled that Miss Harrison and Maisie were unlawfully killed and Copland took his own life.

After the hearing Copland’s older children Craig and Keely said their lives have been 'devastated'.

They said: 'We never could have imagined that our dad could do what he has done; to us, he was an ordinary dad who taught and helped and

loved us.

'As well as the grief and anger, there are so many "whys" and "if onlys". If only our dad had never found that gun and kept it hidden all those years.'

Hampshire police will tomorrow launch a two-week firearms amnesty to remove illegal weapons from the streets.

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