Retired police officer Bill Dowling shot himself after shooting ex, inquest heard — (Western Daily Press)

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First Posted on AntiDepAware

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 14, 2014

A retired police inspector from Wiltshire shot his ex-girlfriend twice in the head before turning the gun on himself, an inquest has heard.

Bill Dowling, 59, and mother-of-two Victoria Rose, 58, were found inside the porch of his home in Devizes.

Neighbours discovered the bodies after hearing screams and shots just 30 seconds after Mrs Rose arrived at the property.

Salisbury Coroner’s Court heard keen shooter Mr Dowling had suffered a sharp decline in his mental health three weeks before the incident, on March 2, 2013.

The father-of-two had struggled with grief following the death of his mother in 2011 and had separated from Mrs Rose, an MoD assistant, in the following year.

Concerns had also been raised about Mr Dowling’s performance as one of the “highest paid” senior civil servants working in the Ministry of Defence in Upavon, Wiltshire.

David Ridley, coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, ruled that Mr Dowling, who served with Wiltshire Police for 30 years, took his own life, with Mrs Rose killed unlawfully.

“Essentially, Victoria was lured to the property that morning on the pretence of bogus medical complaints,” Mr Ridley said.

“On entering the house, she was confronted by her ex-partner holding a shot gun. She turned and was shot twice within the porch of the property, once at close range. Her injuries were not compatible with life.

“Bill shot himself in the head using his shotgun within the porch area of his home. He had recently been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety and had been prescribed medication. The examination after death revealed that Bill had not been taking the medication prescribed.”

The coroner will now prepare a report, under Rule 28 of the The Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013, urging changes to gun licencing guidelines.

He said authorities should consider a pilot scheme – currently operating in Wiltshire – which was initiated by Mrs Rose’s sons Mathew and Jonathan after her death.

Under the scheme, doctors surgeries are informed of a patient’s application for a firearms licence, or that they currently hold one.

The surgery is asked to provide information about the patient’s history and encouraged to contact authorities if conditions that might affect their ability to safely carry guns arises.

If such a concern is raised, firearms and ammunition can be immediately confiscated – potentially “preventing future deaths”, the inquest heard.

Mr Dowling had renewed his five year firearms licence in July 2011. He experienced a sharp mental decline three weeks before the shootings, in March 2013, and was signed off work, prescribed anti-depressants, sleeping tablets and counselling.

However, despite this, no framework was in place to inform his doctor that he owned guns or the licencing authorities that his mental state had changed.

“I shall be doing a schedule 28 report,” Mr Ridley said. “I want to lend my support for the pilot scheme that is ongoing.”

Mr Ridley said he would write to ACPO, the British Medical Association, the Home Office and NHS Wiltshire.

The inquest heard Mr Dowling had reacted badly to concerns raised by his line manager, Brigadier Piers Hankinson, at the Ministry of Defence, on February 4, 2013.

Brigadier Hankinson, of 43 (Wessex) Brigade, said: “I remember saying ’Bill, you need to be aware that there are perceptions among some of the Brigade staff that you are not fully pulling your weight within HQ’.”

Despite Mr Dowling appearing “jolly” and agreeing with his superior, he visited his doctor, Dr Charles Cowen, on February 12 and was signed off work with depression and insomnia.

Mr Dowling was prescribed anti-depressants, which he had stopped taking by a second appointment on February 22, when a sleeping tablet was prescribed.

On February 21, Mr Dowling visited psychiatrist, Esther Downey-New.

“He said there were thoughts that were plaguing him regarding a comment at work by a colleague,” Ms Downey-New said. “He was one of the highest paid civil servants and wasn’t pulling his weight.”

He revisited the doctors’ surgery with Mrs Rose – who was supporting him – on February 25 and enquired about being admitted to hospital, but Dr Cowen decided it was not appropriate.

The day before the deaths, on March 1, Mr Dowling attended another appointment with Dr Cowen and was prescribed a different anti-depressant.

“I can remember him saying to me, I am sure it was that last consultation, when I asked (about suicide) ’I wouldn’t do anything like that’,” Dr Cowen told the inquest.

But hours later, at around 6.25pm, Mr Dowling drafted three messages in his mobile phone – two to Mrs Rose and one to another friend. Each read: “Tablets driving me mad. Can’t go on. Please tell boys to forgive me. Tell police I’m in rear garden. Much love xxx”

At around 8 the following morning, he called Mrs Rose at home and asked her to visit as he was coughing up blood.

Neighbours saw Mrs Rose arrive at the property in her silver Ford Mondeo. Within 30 seconds, they heard screams and gunshots.

Andrew Hyde, who lived next door to Mr Dowling, said: “The first shriek was ’oh my god, what have you done now?’ The tone of the voice was shocked. It was like she had come across something. Then I heard a bang which was dull and heavy. The second shout was louder than the first, I think I might have heard Victoria shout ’no’ in a shocked tone.”

He discovered the bodies at 10.40am, after spotting blood splattered on the glass window of the porch.

Mrs Rose was found lying against the porch door, while Mr Dowling, dressed only in his black underwear, was lying in the porch’s doorway.

“He was cradling what looked to be a rifle in his arms,” Mr Hyde said.

Post mortem tests revealed Mrs Rose had suffered two gunshot wounds to her head – one at close range – while Mr Dowling had one wound to his head.

Forensic pathologist Dr Hugh White confirmed Mr Dowling’s injuries were “compatible with self inflicted gun shot wounds.”

Toxicology tests showed Mr Dowling had not consumed drugs or alcohol before the incident, though he had a small quantity of an anti-depressant in his system.

“This is indicative that he was not taking his medication,” the coroner said.