Princess Anne’s dog breeder hid a shogun from police before shooting his estranged wife dead on Boris Johnson’s family estate and turning the gun on himself after she moved in with a new partner, an inquest heard.
John Zurick, 67, shot Deborah Zurick, 56, twice in the back with a shotgun before shooting himself at their cottage on the Exmoor estate of Stanley Johnson – the Prime Minister’s father.
The pair, who were respected breeders of working clumber spaniels, separated in November 2019 after Mrs Zurick began a relationship with a man in Ireland.
Mrs Zurick survived cancer and ‘drifted apart’ from her husband amid his problems with drink. After they separated, Zurick began to drink heavily again and weeks before the murder he was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving in the nearby hamlet of Winsford.
During his arrest and transport to a police station Zurick attempted to self-harm and spoke of wanting to kill himself.
His firearms licence was revoked and police seized nine licensed firearms with Zurick telling officers there were no other weapons on the premises.
However, he then shot dead his estranged wife with a secret shotgun on February 22 last year after she returned to her former cottage to pick up some items and take some dogs away with her.
He then turned the gun on himself after texting a friend: ‘Debs is dead, I will be in a moment, so sorry.’
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
Paramedics were called to the cottage, on the Prime Minister’s family estate but were unable to save Mrs Zurick (pictured)
Mrs Zurick returned to the property accompanied by her friend Elizabeth Murphy after appearing ‘nervous’ about the trip the day before.
In statements read by the coroner, Ms Murphy said after arriving at Nethercote Cottage in Winsford, Mr Zurick, a leading gundog trainer and acquaintance of the Princess Royal, made the pair a cup of tea and was visibly upset.
Mr Zurick then had a private conversation with his wife behind a closed door, before Mrs Zurick came out and told Ms Murphy the encounter was ‘intense,’ and that they should leave and return the next day.
Mrs Zurick then said she needed to walk the dogs and her husband said he would go with her, the inquest heard.
Her friend remained in the cottage and made herself a coffee, adding that she never saw Mr Zurick with a gun at the time.
Soon after, she saw an ‘agitated’ Mr Zurick ‘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 Mrs Zurick, her friend pleaded with her estranged husband, who was standing in the doorway, to call an ambulance, but was told to ‘f**k off’ again.
The inquest heard Mr Zurick then grabbed hold of Ms Murphy and pushed her into an office in a wooden outbuilding.
Ms Murphy said Mr Zurick 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.
She said while trapped she saw Mr Zurick 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 Mr Zurick came back and told Ms Murphy: ‘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
Princess Anne previously expressed her sadness after learning the dog breeder who worked for her, Deborah Zurick, had been shot dead in the cottage where Boris Johnson grew up (pictured second right with the Queen’s daughter is John Zurick)
Ms Murphy thought she heard a muffled bang, then after waiting approximate 20 minutes escaped through an open window, eventually finding Mrs Zurick ‘flat on ground on her back.’
Paramedics and armed police soon arrived to the property and Mrs Zurick was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Zurick 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 with a shotgun wound to the head but was eventually declared dead on February 27.
Tony Williams, senior coroner for Somerset, concluded that Mrs Zurick had been unlawfully killed and Mr Zurick’s death was due to suicide, following the inquest on Wednesday.
‘Deborah Zurick was shot twice in the back by John using a shotgun and subsequently he turned the gun on himself,’ Mr Williams, referring to a ballistics report, said.
‘As to Deborah’s death, there was no evidence that suggested self-defence or accident, only that John intended to end Deborah’s life in the most calculated way.
‘John then deliberately discharged the shotgun with the intention of ending his life.’
The inquest heard Mrs Zurick would have died a short time after suffering the shotgun wounds during the incident on February 22.
Avon and Somerset Police would have prosecuted him for murder had he survived, the hearing was told.
Mrs Zurick met her husband 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 Mr Zurick battled with alcohol issues, sometimes consuming up to three bottles of wine a night.
He initially stopped drinking after concerns were raised by his wife and friends but he was arrested for drink driving in January 2020.
And after attempting to self-harm and making suicidal references while in custody, he immediately had his gun licence revoked.
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
Mrs Zurick 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.
Evidence from a friend of the couple, Heidrun Humphries, was also read to the inquest.
Mrs Humphries described how Mr Zurick had ‘an issue with alcohol’ and Mrs Zurick had confided that he was verbally abusive to her when drunk.
In late 2019, Mrs Zurick – described as ‘the driving force’ of the dog breeding and training business – told Mrs Humphries that she was leaving her husband and moving to Ireland to be with a man who lived there
When collecting the firearms belonging to the pair, a statement given by an officer at the scene said all guns were accounted for on Mr Zurick’s licence and that besides a decorative fireman on the wall – he saw no other weapon.
However, the inquest heard Mr Zurick 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.
Mrs Zurick 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.