January 24, 2022

Royal dog breeder ‘killed estranged wife on Stanley Johnson’s estate then shot himself’

A royal dog breeder killed his estranged wife then himself while out walking, an inquest heard.

John Zurick, 67, shot Deborah Zurick, 56, twice in the back before turning the gun on himself, after he found out she had moved in with her lover, the hearing was told.

Zurick had gone out on a final stroll at their cottage on the Exmoor estate of the Primer Minister’s father Stanley Johnson when he carried out the attack on February 22, 2020.

His ex had just moved in with a new lover in Ireland and had gone back to the cottage to pick up some items when the tragic incident took place.

She 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, Zurick made the pair a cup of tea and was visibly upset.

Debbie and her husband John (second right) were friends with Princess Anne
Debbie and her husband John (second right) were friends with Princess Anne

The former couple then had a private conversation with the door closed, before Ms Zurick came out and told her friend the encounter was “intense,” and that they should leave and return the next day.

The inquest then heard Ms Zurick said she needed to walk to dogs, to which Zurick replied that he would go with her.

Ms Murphy remained in the cottage and made herself a coffee, and said she never saw Zurick with a gun at the time.

Soon after Ms Murphy said she saw an “agitated” Zurick “flinging open” the door with a shotgun over his arm before saying: “I’ve shot Debbie, and you can f**k off.”

After rushing to check on her friend, Ms Murphy pleaded with Zurick, who was standing in the doorway, to call an ambulance, but was told to “f**k off” again.

John Zurick with wife Debbie Zurick
John Zurick with wife Debbie Zurick

The inquest heard Zurick then grabbed hold of Ms Murphy and pushed her into an office in a wooden outbuilding.

He 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.

Ms Murphy said while trapped she saw 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.”

Zurick came back and said to Ms Murphy: “Please tell everyone I’m sorry. If I can’t have her no one can”, the inquest was told.

Ms Murphy thought she heard a muffled bang, then after waiting approximate 20 minutes escaped through an open window, eventually finding Ms Zurick “flat on ground on her back.”

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

Debbie Zurick was shot dead on February 22
Debbie Zurick was shot dead on February 22

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 on Wednesday concluded Ms Zurick was unlawfully killed by her former partner, who then committed suicide.

The inquest heard Ms Zurcik met him when she was 12 at her father’s gun shop.

Debbie Zurick was killed in the incident in the Somerset village
Ms Zurick was killed in the incident in the Somerset village

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, and their relationship deteriorated.

Ms Zurick 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.

Zurick was a leading gundog trainer and acquaintance of the Princess Royal and Ms Zurick was honorary secretary of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society (WCSS) for more than 20 years.