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Did living in the shadow of his high achieving wife lead to unthinkable tragedy?

News that something terrible had happened at Epsom College began to spread among parents via WhatsApp groups last Sunday afternoon. Pupils arriving back from a trip spotted police cars and cordons around the head teacher’s house, and before long messages were pinging amid concerns about what was happening at the prestigious £45,000-a-year private school.

‘People were saying that somebody was hurt,’ says one mother. ‘But nobody imagined it was going to be something as awful as this.’

It was an email from the chair of the college’s board of governors, later that evening, which brought news of a tragedy so unfathomable that the school community is still struggling to process it: the bodies of head teacher Emma Pattison, her husband George and their seven-year-old daughter, Lettie, had been found on school grounds. ‘Everyone is still in shock and disbelief,’ the mother says.

‘It’s so crazy what happened. I don’t think the children can really take it in or understand how terrible it is.’

Most parents broke the news to their children on Sunday evening. Those who board at the school are believed to have been told of the triple deaths by stunned staff.

While assemblies were held and counselling was offered to all pupils on Monday and Tuesday, a decision was made to bring half-term forward and the school has been closed since Wednesday.

While Surrey police investigations into this horrific murder-suicide continue, in due course an inquest will be opened by the county’s coroner, who will want to know what made 39-year-old Durham University graduate and chartered accountant George Pattison shoot his 45-year-old wife and daughter before turning his shotgun on himself. It is a question that haunts grief-stricken relatives and those who knew and loved the family.

No one who was with the Pattisons last weekend remembers seeing anything untoward. Earlier on that bright, chilly day last Saturday, the family were seen walking alongside the River Mole near a picturesque area in nearby Cobham known as The Tilt. They were ‘silent’ and ‘straight-faced’ according to one who saw them, but he says he didn’t read anything sinister into it at the time.

And that evening, the husband and wife hosted a small dinner party for friends with ‘no indication’ that anything was amiss.

‘Nothing unusual happened. There were no arguments, no indication he would go on to do something so horrific a short time later,’ a friend of the family claimed this week.

But around midnight, Emma made a distressed phone call to her sister Deborah, who jumped into her car and drove from her home in south-east London. She arrived at Emma’s grace-and-favour head teacher house on the edge of Epsom College’s vast grounds just after 1am to find her sister, niece and brother-in-law dead.

What makes their deaths doubly shocking is that, outwardly at least, the Pattisons, who had been married for 12 years, appeared to enjoy the kind of family life to which so many aspire.

Emma was one of the most high-flying teachers in the UK and only six months into her role as Epsom College’s first ever female head. Her husband was a company director. In recent years they had spent thousands creating their dream home and landscaped garden in Caterham, Surrey, where neighbours eyed up the expensive cars on the drive.

Their only child — happy and bubbly Lettie — was being educated at a private prep school. Above all, both Emma and her husband were from close-knit, loving families who utterly adored them. Nothing, then, that might point to the horror brewing behind the scenes.

Yet it emerged this week that there had been problems in the couple’s relationship, going back several years.

In 2016, when Lettie was barely a year old, Emma was briefly arrested after her husband dialled 999 during a row at home, around midnight, alleging that she had slapped him around the face.

Two minutes later, apparently regretting the call, George Pattison dialled 999 again, this time asking officers not to come to the couple’s four-bedroom detached home because it was a ‘trivial matter and he had overreacted’.

Nevertheless, the police turned up and arrested Emma on suspicion of common assault. She was questioned, with a solicitor present, in the early hours before being released without charge.

Given her professional position — at the time she was deputy head teacher at another independent secondary school, St John’s in nearby Leatherhead — it must have been a huge relief to know that the matter wouldn’t be taken any further.

But tellingly, during their questioning, she told police that she and her husband were undergoing counselling to overcome marital problems. Among the issues, detectives were told, was Emma’s high-profile and very demanding job. Not long after that disturbing incident, in September 2016 she took a further leap up the career ladder, assuming her first headship at Croydon High School, a private day school for girls just outside London, and taking on even more responsibilities.

It was an extraordinary rise for a woman raised on a farm in Lincolnshire who, after studying French and English Literature at Leeds University, started her professional life as a graduate trainee with Thomas Cook, hoping to travel the world.

Instead, Emma Kirk, as she was then, found herself based in Bromley, South London, which — she said in a recent interview — was ‘not quite the sparkly lights of where I’d imagined I’d end up’.

The idea of teaching as an alternative career was sparked while flicking through a copy of the Times Educational Supplement in a coffee shop.

Her first teaching job was at Lutterworth College in South Leicestershire, before moving to private Caterham School in Surrey in 2005, then to Guildford High School in 2008, where she rose to become Head of Foreign Languages. She moved to St John’s School, Leatherhead, in 2012. And six years after her 2016 appointment as head of Croydon High School, Emma was propelled into one of the most coveted jobs in UK education.

She took up the £245,000-a-year post in September 2022 and in an interview with the website School Management Plus last month, she was described as ‘fresh and forward-thinking, a far cry from the traditional perception of aloof elitism in the independent sector’.

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Erdogan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail

Turkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances.

Air force pilot Alper Gezeravci, 43, was selected to be the first Turkish citizen in space. His backup is Tuva Cihangir Atasever, 30, an aviation systems engineer at Turkish defense contractor Roketsan.

Erdogan made the announcement at the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul, the president’s first public appearance since falling ill during a TV interview on Tuesday. He appeared alongside Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

“Our friend, who will go on Turkey’s first manned space mission, will stay on the International Space Station for 14 days,” Erdogan said. “Our astronaut will perform 13 different experiments prepared by our country’s esteemed universities and research institutions during this mission.”

Erdogan described Gezeravci as a “heroic Turkish pilot who has achieved significant success in our Air Force Command.”

The Turkish Space Agency website describes Gezeravci as a 21-year air force veteran and F-16 pilot who attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.

Wearing a red flight jacket, Erdogan appeared in robust health as he addressed crowds at the festival. Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14, and opinion polls show Erdogan in potentially his toughest race since he came to power two decades ago.

Turkey is dealing with a prolonged economic downturn, and the government received criticism after a February earthquake killed more than 50,000 in the country. Experts blamed the high death toll in part on shoddy construction and law enforcement of building codes.

While campaigning for reelection, Erdogan has unveiled a number of prestigious projects, such as Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the delivery of natural gas from Black Sea reserves.


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Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.

“We are just getting started,” read a banner that demonstrators held at the main protest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic hub. Smaller demonstrations were reported in several parts of the country.

Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez voiced support to the Israeli antigovernment protesters in a video message aired on a large screen in Tel Aviv.

We as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Yet, as many of you know, these are values that we cannot take for granted,” Sanchez said.

Protesters argue the proposed changes threaten Israel’s democratic values, hurting a system of checks and balances and concentrating authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his extremist allies.

They also say that the prime minister has a conflict of interest in trying to reshape the nation’s legal system at a time when he is on trial.

Such changes would result in weakening the Supreme Court, giving parliament, which is controlled by Netanyahu’s allies, authority to overturn its rulings and limiting its ability to review laws.

The protest gained support from the military’s elite reserve force, businesses, and large sectors of the Israeli community. But on Thursday, tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis who support the legal



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‘Total nightmare:’ As Florida insurance companies go insolvent, homeowners pay the price

Seminole county couple has three-year open claim because of insolvent insurer.

What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?

It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.

The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.

A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.

Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.

She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.

Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.

“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.

It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.

She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.

“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.

The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.

Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.

“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.

Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.

She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.

“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.

In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.

News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.

“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.

One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”

That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.

No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.

Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.

They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.

“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.


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