A young mother held back tears as she told a court of the moment she saw her brother-in-law shoot her sister and mother at almost point-blank range with a stolen rifle.
Raven Whitbread – who was seven months pregnant at the time – told Lewes Crown Court that Craig Savage also pointed the gun at her during the alleged “execution-style” killing of the pair at their home in St Leonards, East Sussex, on March 16.
Savage, 35, is on trial accused of shooting 32-year-old Michelle Savage seven times and her mother, Heather Whitbread, 53, six times before turning the gun on his ex-wife’s Staffordshire bull terrier, Zeus.
He chose not to attend court on Thursday to hear evidence from his sister-in-law.
Ms Whitbread told jurors that she, Mrs Savage, Mrs Whitbread and grandmother Patricia Groves, 80, were enjoying a Chinese takeaway at their home in Bexhill Road when Savage broke in by smashing a window.
The 24-year-old and Mrs Groves fled to hide in the conservatory with the family’s other dogs, Akira and Tifa, and called the police, the court heard.
Giving evidence by live video-link, Ms Whitbread started to cry as she recalled how the events unfolded.
“Mum and Michelle jumped up and told me to run,” she said. “Michelle went towards the window where he was coming through.
“I climbed over the back of the sofa and out of the room.
“I first saw my mum hand me the dogs – her dog and my dog Akira and Tifa – and I started to back out of the room.”
Then, she said, she heard her mother shout “Don’t you f****** dare”, adding: “Then I looked upwards and I saw Craig pointed the gun towards me.
“After she shouted at him, he aimed towards her and fired.”
She said Mrs Savage was running shouting “No, no, no, no” and Ms Whitbread saw her on the floor in the hallway.
She added: “When she was on the floor, I saw her put her arms up in front of her and scream ‘What the f***’ while Craig stood over her and shot her a number of times.
“I didn’t believe the gun was real at the time. I didn’t know what was happening.”
During cross-examination, Alan Kent QC, defending, asked Ms Whitbread if she was sure she saw Savage point the gun at the pair as her evidence differed from her first account.
She said she revisited the event every day in her mind and had mentioned to police a month or two ago that she “remembered things differently”.
In a 999 call played to jurors, Ms Whitbread said: “My sister’s crazy ex has just smashed through the window and shooting, he’s got a weapon.”
Asked by the call handler what type of weapon, she said: “Just bang, bang, my sister’s on the floor” before confirming she thought he had a gun.
She can be heard explaining Savage had already been reported to police.
The court heard the lorry driver had a history of abusive behaviour towards his wife, bombarding her with messages and calls every day to find out where she was and who she was with while he was “lonely” at work.
He refused to accept the break-up which took place in February, jurors were told.
In the weeks before she died, Mrs Savage reported him twice to police and documented the pattern of abuse, the court heard.
He allegedly threatened her with revenge porn if she did not have sex with him one last time and when she refused uploaded 1,000 images of her naked and in her underwear to porn websites encouraging others to download them.
On her birthday a week before she died, he poured paint over the family’s cars and van in the driveway, slashing the tyres.
In text messages between Mrs Savage and her Kung Fu class instructor Neil Gould in early March she described her ex-husband as having “completely lost the plot”.
She told of a meeting with police and said: “They have logged everything and they have put a flag on the address so they know what’s going on.”
Judge Patricia McGowan told jurors that Savage was in custody but not in court that day.
This was “his own choice” but did not affect the trial.
Savage, of no fixed address, denies two counts of murder and possessing a firearm with the intent to endanger life.
He admits robbery in which he stole a rifle from a shooting range earlier that day after pointing it at deputy manager Ryan Graves.
Savage claims he tripped and the gun went off in a “complete accident” after a struggle with Mrs Savage.
He did not intend to hurt her but instead planned to kidnap and have her watch while police shot him dead.
The trial continues.