St Leonards murder trial: Judge tells Craig Savage he ‘may never be released’

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

A man convicted of murdering his ex wife and her mother has been told by a High Court judge he ‘may never be released’.

Craig Savage, 35, of no fixed abode, was today (Monday, October 29) found guilty of intentionally shooting dead his ex wife Michelle Savage, 32, and her mother Heather Whitbread, 53, at their home in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, on March 16 this year.

A jury of ten women and two men took two hours to return a unanimous verdict.

They also found Savage not guilty of a single charge of possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger life on the same day.

Savage had previously pleaded guilty to robbing range manager Ryan Graves at 1066 Target Sports of a firearm used in the killings earlier on March 16.

Sentencing Savage on Monday, Mrs Justice McGowan said: “The minimum term you must serve before you are eligible for parole is 38 years, reduced by the number of days you have already served since you were arrested.

“You may never be released.”

Shortly after a jury at Lewes Crown Court found Savage guilty of the double murder, Mrs Justice McGowan told the former soldier: “On March 16 you deliberately shot and killed Michelle Savage and Heather Whitbread.

“You have devastated a whole family. The loss they have suffered cannot be described.

“The bravery shown by Raven Whitbread in giving evidence to this court is a testament to her and her whole family.

“You have taken two lives and destroyed many others.

“In addition, you shocked and scared the staff at the shooting range and the neighbours in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, who had been going about their everyday lives.

“You had robbed Ryan Graves at gunpoint to arm yourself for the purpose of carrying out that killing.

“You took that gun to kill two women and the family pet.

“You continued to carry that weapon out of the house and aimed it at the police. I accept the jury’s verdict you were not intending to harm their lives but they were not sure at the time.”

Mrs Justice McGowan referred to the breakdown in the relationship between Savage and her ex wife.

The court had been told their five-year marriage had ended on February 12, 2018 – approximately a month before the murders.

Mrs Justice McGowan added: “Your relationship with Michelle Savage had broken down. She wanted you to leave her alone.

“She behaved with dignity and decency over that month. All she wanted you to do was go away and leave her in peace. You began a campaign to hurt her. You sent vile emails to her and others about her.

“You falsely accused her of being unfaithful and falsely accused her of giving you an infection. Even if these were true, they would not have improved your situation.

“You threatened to upload sexually explicit images of her. You published these images and claimed to this jury that because you thought she would not care you were entitled to publish them. You damaged cars at the address.”

Mrs Justice McGowan took Savage back to the events on Friday, March 16 – the day of the shootings – and said he ‘calmly and purposefully’ walked to the house before deliberately shooting the window to gain entry.

She added: “Once inside you executed her and her mother. You were oblivious to her sister and her grandmother who were also in the house.

“Your purpose was to kill Michelle, you did not care.

“Once inside the house you ignored the screams for mercy and shot Michelle three times from directly above her when she was kneeling in front of you. You shot towards her body. Her arms must have been by her side. She was brave and probably did try to stop you but I do not believe she has any responsibility for the shots you fired. You shot her seven times.

“You shot Heather Whitbread four times in the back and twice in the side of her body. In total you shot her six times.

“These two women bravely made sure Raven Whitbread, who was seven months pregnant, was safe.

“You also shot into the back of one of the dogs. Not a single shot was missed. Footage of you leaving the property and walking away is chilling.

Craig Savage murder trial: CCTV footage shows night of the shooting

“When the police officers bravely tried to stop you, you calmly turned and took aim.”

Summing up, Mrs Justice McGowan added: “You set out to blame Michelle for the breakdown of the relationship and tried to say she fired the gun at you. You told the jury you begged her not to shoot you.

“You have tried to blame Michelle for the shots fired in that house.

“You stole the gun and the ammunition from the gun range with the purpose of going to her house and killing her. You killed her where she felt safe and secure. You reloaded the gun whilst still in the house. Not one shot was wasted. Every shot hit its target.”

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Craig Savage jailed for life for murdering ex-wife and her mother at St Leonards home