The husband of the headmistress of Epsom College – who police believe shot her and their daughter dead before killing himself – had only just moved into their school home.
George Pattison, 39, had until three weeks ago been living separately from them in their old £1.5million property in Caterham as its sale went through.
Neighbours say he had been ‘flitting between that house and the property at Epsom’ before the keys were handed to the new owners last month.
It was only then that he moved into the grace-and-favour home with his wife Emma and their daughter Lettie, seven.
Epsom College head Emma Pattison, 45, her husband George, 39, and their seven-year-old daughter Lettie
Mrs Pattison’s frantic call to her sister Deborah Kirk (pictured together) and her husband prompted relatives to jump into a car and drive out to her in Surrey
But on Sunday morning she made a distressed phone call to her sister Deborah Kirk, which prompted her to jump into a car and drive out to her in Surrey.
They arrived too late and discovered her body as well as that of her husband George, and Lettie.
Police say Mr Pattison shot his wife and their child dead before turning the gun on himself in the early hours of Sunday.
Surrey Police has referred itself to the independent watchdog over the triple shooting after it emerged they had been in touch with Mr Pattison just days before.
The killer had been a licenced shotgun holder for many years and officers had called him to check on the storage for his firearm last Thursday. Officers did not visit the premises.
Home Office regulations state that gun-owners must notify police of any change of address as soon as they move.
Though Mrs Pattison moved into her grace and favour home when she started her job last September, the family only handed over the keys to their old house a few weeks ago.
It was suggested Mr Pattison had continued to live at the family’s previous address for months after his wife took up her new post as the first female head at Epsom College.
Neighbours in Caterham said that Mrs Pattison, nor their daughter, had been seen since last summer but that Mr Pattison had spent time living in the property up until the £1.5million sale was completed last month.
One said: ‘I could see the lights on in the evening and his car was around but never hers.’
Last night Zoe Roberts, a teacher at Caterham School where her friend Mrs Pattison also used to teach, said: ‘It is tragic and we wish this had never happened.
‘She was beautiful, inside and out. She was just the most wonderful person. We can’t put it into words at the moment, it is too raw. We are still working it out. It is just a tragic loss.’
A former neighbour added: ‘I wasn’t sure if anybody had actually moved out because I’d seen George quite recently. I saw him in the run up to Christmas.
A police vehicle outside Epsom College in Surrey on Monday following the three deaths in an apparent murder-suicide
‘He was by himself, Emma and Lettie were not with him.
‘His BMW 8 Series was parked on the drive. Emma drove a 4×4 but I’d not seen that for a while.
‘In fact the last time I spoke to Emma was just before she got the job at Epsom College because she was telling me how she’d just got it and was to become head teacher of this big, prestigious school.
‘I hadn’t seen her nor her daughter since that day and that must have been earlier last summer. I think she moved out before George.
‘The new owners arrived about three weeks or so ago and just before they moved in, a removal firm had taken away the last remaining bits of furniture belonging to Emma and George from the house.
‘It was George who handed the keys over to the estate agents. I think he’d been flitting between that house and the property at Epsom’
Sources told the Mail there were no grounds for suspicion over Mr Pattison as he had no criminal past and has held his firearms licence for ‘many years’.
The only time police are known to have been called to the family came in 2016, over accusations Mr Pattison made against his wife.
Mrs Pattison with her daughter Lettie. The seven-year-old has been described as a ‘little angel’ and ‘perfect in every way’ following her death on Sunday morning
He phoned the police complaining she had slapped him during a domestic row. It is understood he regretted making the call and downplayed it as a trivial matter when officers arrived, claiming he didn’t realise what would happen.
Surrey Police did take the matter seriously and the Mail understands Mrs Pattison was interviewed under caution with a solicitor present. The case was dropped as her husband wouldn’t co-operate.
Officers yesterday confirmed that a gun registered and licensed to Mr Pattison was recovered from the head teacher’s residence after the killing.
They stated that their phone call with him over his change of address days before was a ‘routine’ communication.
A police statement said: ‘Due to the short period of time between that contact and this incident, we have made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct [IOPC].’
The force said that the incident was now being treated as a homicide investigation. The exact cause of the deaths, which have been reported to the local coroner, will not be determined until post-mortem examinations have been carried out.
Officers are now trying to piece together the exact chronology of events leading up to the tragedy but they remain confident that there is no third-party involvement.
Detective Chief Inspector Kimball Edey said: ‘We are co-operating fully with the IOPC in relation to the referral we have made, and we await the outcome of its assessment of what further action may be required.’
Inspector Jon Vale, Epsom and Ewell’s borough commander, said the force was ‘confident that this incident was contained to one address and there is no risk to the wider public’.
A spokesman for the IOPC said: ‘We have received a referral from Surrey police about an incident in Epsom on February 5 as an officer at the force had contact with Mr Pattison last week.
Surrey Police today confirmed it had recovered Mr Pattison’s gun and was treating the case as a murder investigation with ‘no third-party involvement’
‘We are assessing the available information to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.’
George Pattison was a fast car-loving chartered accountant. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he married Mrs Pattison in 2011.
In the wake of the apparent murder/suicide, the school announced it would shut last night and remain closed until the end of next week’s half term holiday.
Parents were notified of the decision to finish early for half term in an email sent earlier today.
Paul Williams, the acting head, said it was time for families ‘to come together and try to process this shocking news.’
He wrote: ‘The shock and horror of the past few days have been unprecedented. The impact on your children cannot be underestimated and we are doing everything we can to support them in whatever way they need.’
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.