A neighbour of the prime minister’s family has been killed and her husband is fighting for his life, after a double shooting in a quiet Somerset village.
Debbie Zurick, 56, has been named locally as the victim, while her husband John, 67, is said to be in a critical condition in hospital in police custody over the murder.
The couple lived in Nethercote Cottage, in Winsford, next door to Boris Johnson’s father’s 500-acre estate. They are well-known working Clumber Spaniel breeders, with Mrs Zurick having trained Princess Anne’s dog Sparkle.
Police rushed to their home following reports of concerns over the welfare of a woman at 2.30pm on Saturday and on arrival found Mrs Zurick suffering suffering severe gunshot injuries outside. She was given CPR by officers but was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Zurick was later found in an outbuilding suffering serious injuries also caused by gunshot wounds and is in a critical but stable condition.
A second woman, who is being treated as a key witness in the murder probe, was found uninjured nearby.
Avon and Somerset police has now referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct after it said it had ‘prior contact’ with the couple.
Mrs Zurick’s half-brother, Phillip Townsend, told MailOnline: ‘I’ve been told that Debbie is dead and John is in a bad way in hospital.
‘The police haven’t told us anything. We are just in shock, it’s terrible.’
‘I thought they were happy together. They seemed to have the perfect life,’ he later told.
‘They shared each other’s country ideals – they had a house, dogs, guns. They lived a life they loved in the country.’
The couple were said to be good friends of the Johnson’s, who have expressed their deep shock over the incident.
Stanley Johnson told The Telegraph: ‘Both I and my whole family are shocked, stunned and saddened by this tragic incident.
‘I personally pay tribute to the inspirational qualities of Debbie Zurick and I recognise for example the wonderful work she did as secretary of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society.
‘She will be sorely missed on Exmoor and in the much wider world of dog lovers and dog breeders.’
Following a post-mortem examination, Mrs Zurick’s cause of death was confirmed as shotgun injuries. However, she has not yet been formally identified.
A police spokesperson said: ‘Further enquiries have now taken place following the death of a woman in Winsford, which is being treated as murder’.
Detective Superintendent Julie Mackay, of the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: ‘This is a very serious incident in which a woman has lost her life and we are deploying family liaison officers to support the next of kin.
‘The scene remains cordoned off so further forensic inquiries and searches can take place over the next few days.
‘We’re grateful to the local community for their support and understanding, and I’d urge anyone with concerns or questions to speak to a member of the local neighbourhood team who’ll be carrying out extra patrols over the coming days.
‘Due to prior police contact with those involved, a mandatory referral has been made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
‘It would be inappropriate for us to go into further details while the referral is being considered.’