Urgent review of crossbow regulations considered after BBC commentator's family killed

Armed police at Lavender Hill Cemetery near the home of Triple murder suspect Kyle Clifford
-Credit: (Image: Phil Harris)

The Home Secretary is considering if stricter crossbow regulations are necessary, following the suspected murders of a BBC race commentator's wife and two daughters.

In the wake of the tragic incident involving John Hunt's family in Bushey, Hertfordshire, on Tuesday, Yvette Cooper will scrutinise the results of a Home Office revision conducted earlier this year.

A significant manhunt has been launched for suspect Kyle Clifford, aged 26, who authorities think could still be armed with a crossbow. While killings involving a crossbow are rare, ministers had considered toughening laws in an effort to curb the weapons being used in violent attacks.

It has been reported that Carol Hunt and her two daughters Hannah and Louise were killed in crossbow attacks in Bushey, Hertfordshire.

Police have said 26-year-old suspect Kyle Clifford, who is understood to have left the British Army in 2022 following a short period of service, is believed to be armed and in Hertfordshire or north London.

The hunt for Clifford appeared to focus on a cemetery in the Hilly Fields area of Enfield, north London on Wednesday afternoon.

He is wanted over the deaths of Mrs Hunt, who was married to BBC racing commentator John Hunt, and two of their daughters who were aged 25 and 28 when they were killed in Ashlyn Close on Tuesday.

The prior government had looked into introducing firearms licensing-style guidelines following an attempt to assassinate the late Queen with a crossbow. Presently, there isn't a registration process for possessing a crossbow, no licence mandate, and they can be easily purchasable online.

Kyle Clifford is believed to be in Hertfordshire or north London and 'may be armed with a crossbow'
Kyle Clifford is believed to be in Hertfordshire or north London and 'may be armed with a crossbow' -Credit:Herts Police

However, it's unlawful for anyone under eighteen to buy or possess one, and anyone found carrying a crossbow in public without a plausible reason could face up to four years in prison. The Home Office suggested early this year that part of the efforts to "step up action to prevent violence on our streets" might include obliging crossbow owners to undergo police checks.

In February, the department launched an eight-week review regarding the prospect of a licensing system to manage the use, purchase, and supply of crossbows. As part of regulations similar to those currently in place for firearms, individuals seeking to buy crossbows may face police checks.

Due to the calling of the General Election, progress on the matter was postponed after the work was completed by the Home Office in April.

Newly appointed Home Secretary Ms Cooper, known for her support towards the initiative, is said to be backing the move.

Reacting to the incident, a Home Office spokesperson expressed: "This is an appalling incident and the Home Secretary is being kept updated by the police."

Emphasising their continuous evaluation of legislation, she noted: "We keep legislation under constant review and a call for evidence was launched earlier this year to look at whether further controls on crossbows should be introduced."

She added that topical findings would be immediately assessed by the Home Secretary to determine if it's necessary to enhance existing laws.

The fatalities follow other recent violent events involving a crossbow.

Bryce Hodgson, a convicted stalker was shot dead by officers in January when he stormed into a property in London, armed with several weapons, including a crossbow.

The law regarding crossbow usage came under review following orders from former home secretary Priti Patel when aspiring assassin Jaswant Singh Chail was urged by an AI chatbot to trespass Windsor Castle equipped with a loaded crossbow with the intention of assassinating the late Queen on Christmas Day 2021.

The 21-year-old was sentenced to nine years in prison in October last year, with an additional five years on extended licence after confessing to treason, threatening to kill the Queen at the time, and possessing a loaded crossbow.

The Home Office reports that there were fewer than 10 murders involving a crossbow between 2011 and 2021, but nonetheless notes that it is "clear that when used as a weapon, crossbows do pose a risk".

Former safeguarding minister Laura Farris observed that, while rare, crossbows "used rarely in violent crime in this country but they can be highly dangerous".

A domestic homicide review in January of last year declared that the Metropolitan Police missed chances to protect Sana Muhammad from her ex-husband over the years before he murdered her with a crossbow.

At eight months pregnant, the 35-year-old woman was fatally wounded when her ex-husband Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo, then 51, barged into her home and unleashed an arrow into her stomach back in 2018.

The pair had split four years ago after their arranged marriage in Mauritius in 1999, when Ms Muhammad was just 17 years old.

Despite the catastrophic internal injuries the attack caused, which led to her death, her unborn son miraculously survived after being delivered by C-section.

Unmathallegadoo is expected to die behind bars after he was found guilty of murder and he received a life sentence with a minimum term of 33 years back in 2019.