‘Gunshots heard’ before Epsom College head found dead with husband and daughter
Staff and parents at Epsom College on Monday spoke of their “deep shock” at the death of the headteacher, her daughter and husband at their home in the school grounds as police investigated the triple tragedy.
The bodies of Emma Pattison, her seven-year-old daughter Lettie and husband George were discovered by officers after being called by ambulance staff in the early hours of Sunday. The circumstances of their deaths were still being investigated but police said they were confident there was no “third-party involvement” and that the tragedy was an “isolated incident”.
On Monday, pupils brought flowers in memory of Ms Pattison, 45 — who became the boarding and day school’s first female headteacher five months ago after moving from her previous job as head at Croydon High School — and staff members consoled each other as they arrived for the start of the week.
According to the Telegraph newspaper, gunshots were heard before the family’s bodies were discovered.
Citing an unnamed source, the paper reported that a member of staff called the emergency services early Sunday after hearing the shots.
On Monday, a rifle range at the school appeared to be closed off. A source told the paper the range has no live ammunition in it.
The family’s home is said to be close to other houses occupied by teachers and staff.
The college flag was flying at half mast after the tragedy. One staff member said: “We are in deep shock. We just can’t comprehend what happened.” Another said: “We are beyond words, it’s too upsetting. She was very popular and now we have to help the children come to terms with this.”
One parent at the school, where fees are up to £42,303 a year, said: “We just can’t believe it. The parents have all been in touch on WhatsApp groups, it’s a tragedy. It is heartbreaking.”
Extra staff were at the gates as worried parents asked for information.
One said: “It’s overwhelmingly sad. We can’t believe it. We had to break the news to our children. I expect the staff will speak to the children about it in assembly.” The college posted a statement on Twitter describing Ms Pattison as a “wonderful head” but saying that it was unable to say more about the “shocking and tragic news” of her death and would remain in “close contact with Surrey Police over the coming weeks and months”.
It added that the “college community will be coming together to process the news, grieve and pay our respects”.
A parent said that pupils and staff were being offered counselling and that a special assembly was being held. Drone footage showed police investigating at the family’s large double-fronted home in the grounds where a Range Rover and another expensive car could be seen.
Surrey Police said a “thorough investigation” was already under way to “establish the circumstances of their deaths” and that the family’s next of kin were being supported by specialist officers. Detective Chief Inspector Kimball Edey said: “I first want to express my sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Emma, Lettie and George, as well as to the students and staff of Epsom College, for their tragic loss.
“I want to give my assurance that we will conduct a thorough investigation into what took place last night, and hope to be able to bring some peace in these traumatic circumstances.”
Inspector Jon Vale, Epsom and Ewell’s borough commander, added: “We’re aware that this incident will have caused concern and upset in the community.
“While this is believed to be an isolated incident, in the coming days, our local officers will remain in the area to offer reassurance to students, parents, teachers, and the local community. I would like to thank the school and the community for their understanding and patience while the investigation continues.” Ms Pattison’s husband George, 39, was a chartered accountant and a director of a management consultancy firm called Tanglewood 2016.
Dr Alastair Wells, chair of the school board of governors said there was “utter shock and disbelief at this tragic news.”
He added: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Emma’s family, friends and loved ones, and to the many pupils and colleagues whose lives she enriched throughout her distinguished career. Emma was a wonderful teacher, but most of all she was a delightful person.”
Croydon High School said in a statement that Ms Pattison had been “a hugely respected and much-loved head of our school”, adding: “She was a warm, compassionate leader, a dedicated teacher and a generous and insightful colleague and friend.”
Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), of which Croydon High School is part, said: “We are immensely shocked and saddened by the news about the death of Emma Pattison, her daughter Lettie and her husband George.
“Our thoughts are with their family at this time, as well as everyone at Croydon High School, and Epsom College.
“Emma was a much loved and respected member of the GDST community, as well as a talented head and teacher and a dear friend to many of us.
“She touched the lives of all of us with her energy, wisdom and kindness during her six years as head of Croydon High School and the school will always bear the legacy of her inspiring leadership.
“We are taking time to support staff and students at Croydon High School as well as everyone in the GDST family, and their wellbeing will be our priority in the coming days.”