Princess Anne's friend, 56, shot dead on Boris Johnson family estate

Princess Anne’s dog breeder friend, 56, was shot dead on Boris Johnson’s family estate by her estranged husband before he turned the shotgun on himself after she left him for another man, inquest hears

  • Deborah Zurick, 56, was found dead with shotgun wounds at property last year 
  • Paramedics called to cottage in Winsford, near Minehead, after the incident 
  • Husband John Frederick Zurick died in hospital days later after shooting himself 
  • Mrs Zurick was a dog breeder and trainer who once worked for Princess Anne
  • A Royal dog breeder shot his estranged wife dead while out on a final stroll with her before taking his own life after she moved in with a new lover, an inquest heard today.

    John Zurick, 67, shot Deborah Zurick, 56, twice in the back with a shotgun before turning it on himself at their cottage on the Exmoor estate of Stanley Johnson – the Prime Minister’s father.

    Deborah was killed on February 22, 2020 – after she had just moved in with a new lover in Ireland and had returned to the cottage to pick up some items.

    She returned to the property accompanied by her friend Elizabeth Murphy after appearing ‘nervous’ about the trip the day before.

    John Zurick, 67, shot Deborah Zurick, 56, twice in the back with a shotgun before turning it on himself at their cottage on the Exmoor estate last year

    John Zurick, 67, shot Deborah Zurick, 56, twice in the back with a shotgun before turning it on himself at their cottage on the Exmoor estate last year

    The inquest, which opened last year, previously heard that Southampton-born Zurick was estranged from his wife. Pictured: Debbie and John Zurick with their dogs

    The inquest, which opened last year, previously heard that Southampton-born Zurick was estranged from his wife. Pictured: Debbie and John Zurick with their dogs

    Paramedics were called to the cottage, on the Prime Minister's family estate but were unable to save Mrs Zurick (pictured)

    Paramedics were called to the cottage, on the Prime Minister’s family estate but were unable to save Mrs Zurick (pictured)

    In statements read by the coroner, Elizabeth said after arriving at Nethercote Cottage, John made the pair a cup of tea and was visibly upset, an inquest was told.

    John and Deborah then had a private conversation with the door closed, before Deborah came out and told Elizabeth the encounter was ‘intense,’ and that they should leave and return the next day.

    The inquest then heard Deborah said she needed to walk to dogs, to which John said he would go with her.

    Elizabeth remained in the cottage and made herself a coffee, and said she never saw John with a gun at the time.

    Soon after Elizabeth said she saw an ‘agitated’ John ‘flinging open’ the door with a shotgun over his arm before saying: ‘I’ve shot Debbie, and you can f*ck off.’

    After rushing to check on Deborah, Elizabeth pleaded with John, who was standing in the doorway, to call an ambulance, but was told to ‘f*ck off’ again.

    The inquest heard Jon then grabbed hold of Elizabeth and pushed her into an office in a wooden outbuilding.

    Elizabeth said John then returned with screws and put them in to lock her shut, but after realising there was a second window – he opened the door, dragged her by the wrists and shoved her in stables used as kennels.

    Elizabeth said while trapped she saw John place tubes into the exhausts of a car, but after revving the engine for a few minutes said: ‘That didn’t work, I’m going to shoot myself.’

    The inquest heard John came back and told Elizabeth: ‘Please tell everyone I’m sorry. If I can’t have her no one can.’

    A picture posted on the couple's social media showing Boris Johnson meeting their dog, also called Boris

    A picture posted on the couple’s social media showing Boris Johnson meeting their dog, also called Boris

    Princess Anne previously expressed her sadness after learning the dog breeder who worked for her, Debbie Zurick, had been shot dead in the cottage where Boris Johnson grew up (pictured second right with the Queen's daughter is John Zurick)

    Princess Anne previously expressed her sadness after learning the dog breeder who worked for her, Debbie Zurick, had been shot dead in the cottage where Boris Johnson grew up (pictured second right with the Queen’s daughter is John Zurick)

    Elizabeth thought she heard a muffled bang, then after waiting approximate 20 minutes escaped through an open window, eventually finding Deborah ‘flat on ground on her back.’

    A helicopter and armed police soon arrived on the scene and took over.

    John was found by police in an outbuilding believed to be used as a kennel, sat up against a wall and with a sawn-off shotgun in his lap.

    He was flown to Derriford Hospital after being found by armed police some hours later with a shotgun wound to the head, but was eventually declared dead on February 27.

    An inquest by the Somerset Coroner today concluded Deborah was unlawfully killed by John, with John then committing suicide.

    The inquest heard Deborah met John when she was 12 at her father’s gun shop.

    The pair then married when she was roughly 19 – initially having what one friend described as a ‘loving relationship.’

    Both dog trainers and breeders, the couple regularly attended game shoots and organised training days for spaniels and their owners at their Somerset home.

    Throughout the couple’s marriage though, it was heard John battled with alcohol issues, sometimes consuming up to three bottles of wine a night.

    Deborah had also told friends she felt ‘unsupported’ by her husband after being diagnosed with cancer some years prior to her death, and that she felt the relationship had deteriorated.

    Officers were called to the property after reports of a hearing a gunshot in Winsford, Somerset

    Officers were called to the property after reports of a hearing a gunshot in Winsford, Somerset

    Winsford borders Exmoor National Park and is home to a 12th century pub, The Royal Oak Exmoor

    Winsford borders Exmoor National Park and is home to a 12th century pub, The Royal Oak Exmoor

    Deborah eventually told John she was leaving him in December 2019 and moving in with a new man she had previously met while on holiday in Ireland with some female friends.

    Despite initially stopping the drink after concerns were raised by his wife and friends – John was arrested for drink driving in January 2020.

    And after attempting to self-harm and making suicidal references while in custody, immediately had his gun license revoked.

    When collecting the firearms belonging the pair, a statement given by an officer at the scene said all guns were accounted for on John’s license and that besides a decorative fireman on the wall – he saw no other weapon.

    However, the inquest heard John had previously told Robert Mitchell, a local gamekeeper, that he still had two shotguns in the house which police were not aware of and had ammunition.

    In a police interview, the inquest heard Elizabeth recall the events leading up to the couple’s death.

    John was a leading gundog trainer and acquaintance of the Princess Royal

    Deborah was honorary secretary of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society (WCSS) for more than 20 years and her husband was a member of the society’s ruling committee.