Epsom College head talked of 'exciting future' six days before death
Epsom College headteacher said she was looking forward to an ‘exciting future’ in interview published just six days before she was found dead alongside her husband and seven-year-old daughter
- Emma Pattison became Epsom College’s first female head five months ago
- She and husband George hosted a dinner party for friends on Saturday night
- For support call the Samaritans anonymously for free from a UK phone on 116 123
Head of Epsom College Emma Pattison said she was looking forward to an ‘exciting future’ in an interview published just six days before she was found dead alongside her husband and seven-year-old daughter in their home on school grounds.
Ms Pattison, 45, who became the first female head of the prestigious independent school in September, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview published in education magazine School Management Plus.
Discussing the financial difficulties faced by schools in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Pattison said she saw it as an opportunity: ‘It could be time to shape a really exciting future for the country.’
She also spoke about plans to open the Surrey school to a wider section of the community by improving access and bursary efforts.
But just six days after it was published, Ms Pattison and daughter Lettie are believed to have been shot dead by her husband George, 39, before he turned the gun on himself.
Epsom College head Emma Pattison, 45, her husband George, 39, and their seven-year-old daughter Lettie
Police believe Mr Pattison shot his wife and daughter dead before turning the gun on himself
The family was discovered dead at their property within the school grounds at around 1.10am on Sunday, police said, shortly after Ms Pattison made a distressed phone call to her sister.
Just hours before the shootings, she and Mr Pattison hosted an ‘intimate’ dinner party with friends, who said that nothing appeared out of place or unusual between the couple.
Mr Pattison was understood to show no sign of being upset or worried during the evening.
A friend of the family told the Sun: ‘On Saturday night they threw a dinner party. It was quite an intimate affair and literally turned out to be their last supper.
‘Nothing unusual happened. There were no arguments, no indication he would go on to do something so horrific a short time later.’
In the interview published shortly before her death, Ms Pattison she said Covid-19 had brought ‘an absolute sea change’ in what parents cared about for their children.
She said: ‘They used to talk about results and Oxbridge. That has turned about-face completely since Covid. It’s now about well-being, pastoral care, kindness, service and charity.’
She acknowledged challenges for the independent sector, saying: ‘The image of the exclusive private school has to be a thing of the past. Exclusivity is a dirty word nowadays.
‘The independent schools’ sector has to offer something very different going forward, for its own pupils and for the social impact it could bring.’
Ms Pattison added it was charity and impact on the local community which was closest to her heart, saying she wanted her pupils to become ‘part of the solution to come of the problems in society.’
Interviewer Zoe MacDougall paid tribute to Ms Pattison after news of her death emerged, praising her ‘warm and easy personality’.
She said: ‘Talking to Emma, it was clear that service and kindness were core values. Her vision was for her pupils to learn truths about the world around them, in preparation for the adults that she hoped they would become: people who would play leading roles in society with understanding, compassion and integrity.
‘I found her inspirational.’
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
Ms Pattison moved to the college with daughter Lettie in September, while husband George, 39, remained in their old £1.5million property in Caterham as its sale went through (Pictured: Ms Pattison outside Croydon High School, where she worked prior to her new role in Epsom)
Ms Pattison moved to the college with daughter Lettie in September, while husband George, 39, remained in their old £1.5million property in Caterham as its sale went through.
Neighbours say Mr Pattison had been ‘flitting between’ their old 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 family’s new home with his wife Emma and daughter Lettie.
It emerged yesterday that Mrs Pattison made a distressed phone call to her sister Deborah Kirk in the early hours of Sunday morning, just minutes before she would be shot dead.
Ms Kirk immediately jumped into a car and drove out to the college in Surrey, but arrived too late and discovered her body as well as those of her husband George and Lettie.
Surrey Police confirmed they believe Mr Pattison shot his wife and daughter dead before turning the weapon on himself, and that no third party was involved in the killings.
The force 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.
In December, Ms Pattison told a student podcast her move had been ‘a really big change for my family’, adding: ‘I’ve got a new job, my husband got a new job, which wasn’t meant to happen, but did, and my daughter has started a new school.’
Mrs Pattison had only become head of the prestigious college five months ago, and was the first woman to hold the role
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
Emma Pattison with her husband George at a school function
A police vehicle outside Epsom College in Surrey on Monday following the three deaths in an apparent murder-suicide
A neighbour of the family in Caterham told MailOnline: ‘It’s horrific what’s happened at the college. I never heard any arguing or anything like that when they lived here.
‘They appeared to have it all – a nice house, good jobs and lots of money.
‘As well as the BMW, George also drove a Jaguar XR and an Audi S5. They’d also spent a lot of money doing up the house.
‘When they first moved in it was quite a scruffy granny-style house but they’d extended the kitchen and landscaped the back garden as well as improving the front of the house.
Shocked parents pay tribute to Epsom College’s first female headteacher, 45, after she is found dead: READ MORE HERE
‘Emma was really nice and charming. She would talk over the fence.
‘George was much quieter, much more introverted.
‘He seemed older than 39, he looked and acted like someone approaching 50, not 40. His dress sense was almost like a country gent.
‘Over the last year or so I never really saw him go to work. I think he may have worked at home a bit but I got the impression he had a lot of time on his hands.
‘I’d see him through the window drinking glasses of red wine in his new kitchen extension.’
Yesterday Emma’s close friend Helen Walker, 43, posting a moving photo of Ms Pattison and her daughter paddling on the beach four years ago in Walberswick, Suffolk.
She wrote: ‘When you hear or read the tragic news of my dear friend and her beautiful daughter please have this vision in your mind. Don’t think of them as victims of a cowardly man.
‘Think of them on Walberswick beach in Suffolk paddling in the sun on a late August day. Emma Pattison, your light will never stop shining brightly.
‘We miss you and love you both dearly. I pray my mum is up there to greet you and give you a massive hug that we can’t.’
Ms Walker later amended her post to delete mention of a ‘cowardly man’ as she sought to push the focus on to positive memories of her friend.
Speaking from her home, she said: ‘It should really be about her. I don’t want to speculate on him in any way. I want people to envisage her and her daughter in a happy place.
‘She was the most utterly beautiful person in the world, both inside and out. She was truly inspirational. Lettie was beautiful as well.’
In 2016, financial records show Mr Pattison, a chartered accountant, was the sole director of management consultancy Tanglewood.
He had recently taken out a £14,076 director’s loan, according to accounts for the year ending October 2021.
Meanwhile, Land Registry documents revealed a mortgage was taken out on the family’s four-bedroom Caterham home in January last year, eight years after they bought it for around £600,000.
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.
‘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 May 2016, he called police alleging his wife had assaulted him at their home, claiming she had slapped him in the face.
He then made a second call asking police not to visit and said he had overreacted – however police did attend and arrested Mrs Pattison on suspicion of common assault.
She was questioned and later released without charge.
In the wake of the apparent murder-suicide, the school announced it would shut 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.
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 for free from a UK phone on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org for more information.
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