Date: 10 Dec 1996
Richard Alan Watson was shot as he got home from work.
He was a millionaire businessman.
He had come home from work in his TVR Chimera sports car, closed the gate to his property and got out of his car and was shot multiple times, dying almost instantly.
He was shot in the neck and chest. The ballistics evidence suggested that the shots had come from a balcony to the house and his wife and daughter were charged with conspiracy six months after the murder, but the case was dropped on the eve of the trial in June 1998 after conflicting expert evidence was produced and the prosecution offered no evidence. It was heard that after six ballistic experts gave evidence, it was not possible to state that the shots had come from the balcony. The judge concluded that there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.
His wife said that Richard Watson had called her a short while earlier to say that he was almost home and that whilst she was getting the ice for his gin and tonic she heard something like a firecracker go off.
His step-daughter, who made a written statement for the inquest, said that she heard Richard Watson walking towards the house and then heard him cry out, 'No, No. Get away from me. Not again!', and then heard shots. She said that she then looked out of the window from behind a curtain and saw a man wearing a balaclava in the garden. She said that she then rang 999 and stayed in the house with her mother.
It was said that the murderer had been a local man who was later convicted for his role in another attempted murder in which he was hired to shoot a man at his house but instead shot the man's neighbour leaving him paralysed for life.
The man that was said to have been the hired gunman had at the time of the murder been awaiting trial for a burglary charge at Richard Watson's computer sales company and Richard Watson was the main prosecution witness.
The police said that when they arrested the main suspect at his home, they had found him washing his clothes and found that he had dismantled and cleaned part of his plumbing.
It was also alleged that the suspected murderer had attacked Richard Watson a month earlier with a stun gun.
It was noted that many of the witnesses to the crime were found to be unreliable and that many of them had criminal backgrounds. It was also noted that some of them were using the investigation to settle old scores.
In May 2001 the police made further efforts to solve the murder and raided several addresses across southern England for the gun, including farmland at Blindley Heath in Surrey which was five miles from East Grinstead.
The police investigation into Richard Watson's murder was later criticised in a Police Complaints Authority inquiry which concluded that senior officers had been guilty of systematic failures during the investigation. After the main suspect was convicted for the attempted murder of the other man, the police reopened their investigation but found that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.
It was heard that Richard Watson's wife was unhappy with the allegations that she and her daughter had hired the man to kill Richard Watson, stating that Richard Watson had died intestate and that the bulk of his estate went to his children. She said that the allegations against her and her daughter were ridiculous and based on a barmy hypothesis. Both women later received £25,000 in settlement from Sussex Police who also apologised unreservedly stating that they accepted that they were innocent of all charges in relation to the murder. A law specialist who represented the women said that ex-gratia payments were rare and said that they both welcomed the decision
Richard Watson's wife and stepdaughter had both spent two weeks on remand in Holloway Prison awaiting trial.