By STEVE DOWNES
Monday, December 3, 2012
One of Norfolk’s leading council figures has been found dead in a garden near his Cromer home – just yards away from the body of his wife.
Keith and Andrea Johnson were found by police yesterday afternoon with shotgun wounds after worried residents reported an incident at Compit Hills.
Ambulance, air ambulance and police raced to the scene but were unable to save the couple.
Mr Johnson was the leader of North Norfolk District Council, a former Cromer mayor and a long-serving member of both the district and town councils.
The double death has sent shockwaves through Cromer, where the couple were prominent and much-loved figures, often seen at carnival, council, Christmas and other events.
Only this weekend, Mr Johnson was helping to organise the town’s Christmas market which was part of a weekend of light-up events to usher in the festive season.
And on Friday he was mixing with dignitaries at the opening of a Waitrose store at North Walsham.
Later the same day, he was posing for EDP photos to urge organisations to come forward to take on a redundant annexe of the NNDC headquarters at Holt Road, Cromer.
He was elected as leader of NNDC earlier this year, succeeding Helen Eales. And he threw himself into the job with vigour, embarking on a tour of town and parish councils with NNDC chief executive Sheila Oxtoby.
This morning, scenes of crime officers were expected to still be at the scene of the double death, combing the bungalow and gardens for clues.
Last night, crime scene tents covered the two bodies, with four police investigation cars and a number of other police vehicles lining the street.
A police community support officer was stationed at the entrance to Compit Hills, ensuring that only residents could get in, while the area close to the scene of the incident was cordoned off with police tape.
Initially, nobody was allowed to come in or out of the close. But restrictions were loosened after a few hours, with those living away from the immediate area of the incident allowed to get to their homes.
News of the tragedy soon spread around the close-knit community.
Neighbours quickly identified who had been involved.
One woman, who lives with her family a few doors down from Mr and Mrs Johnson, said: “It’s a huge, huge shock. We cannot believe it. It’s so quiet up here. If you thought of any place where this sort of thing would happen, it certainly wouldn’t be here.”
She added: “The average age here is very high. I only walked past their house with my daughter about 15 minutes before it all happened. It’s so terribly sad.”
Mr Johnson’s close friend, Benji Cabbell-Manners, had been away for the weekend and spoke of his “terrible shock” at hearing the news.
Other friends and colleagues, including town, district and county councillor Hilary Thompson, town clerk Julie Chance, deputy mayor David Pritchard and fellow NNDC and Cromer man John Lee were still digesting the news last night.
Mr Johnson was also secretary of the Anglian Combination football league, and retired in 2011 after a 39-year career in local government at Sheringham Urban District Council and NNDC.
He was born in Sheringham, and attended Sheringham Primary School and Paston Grammar School at North Walsham.
He was a football referee for many years and highlights included officiating at the Womens FA Cup Final and refereeing at Carrow Road.
● Send your tributes to Mr and Mrs Johnson to firstname.lastname@example.org