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HomeNewsShadowed by Success: Tensions Behind the Tragic Epsom College Head Family

Shadowed by Success: Tensions Behind the Tragic Epsom College Head Family

Shadowed by Success: Tensions Behind the Tragic Epsom College Head Family

On Sunday afternoon, word spread among parents’ WhatsApp groups that something terrible had occurred at Epsom College.

Pupils returning from a trip spotted police cars and cordons around the headmaster’s residence. Messages soon began pinging with concerns about what was occurring at the prestigious £45,000-per-year private school.

One mother states, “People were saying that somebody was hurt.” No one, however, anticipated that the outcome would be so terrible.

Later that evening, the chair of the college’s board of governors sent an email informing the school community of an incomprehensible tragedy: the bodies of head teacher Emma Pattison, her husband George, and their seven-year-old daughter Lettie had been discovered on school grounds. The mother says, “Everyone is still in shock and disbelief.”

“What transpired is so crazy. I don’t believe the children can comprehend or comprehend how terrible it is.

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The majority of parents informed their children on Sunday evening. Staff members are believed to have informed the boarding students of the three deaths.

On Monday and Tuesday, assemblies were held and counseling was offered to all students. However, a decision was made to advance the half-term, and the school has been closed since Wednesday.

As Surrey police continue to investigate this heinous murder-suicide, the county’s coroner will open an inquest to determine what prompted 39-year-old Durham University graduate and chartered accountant George Pattison to shoot his 45-year-old wife and daughter before turning the shotgun on himself.

It is a question that haunts bereaved family members and those who knew and loved the deceased.

No one who spent the weekend with the Pattisons remembers seeing anything suspicious. On that bright, chilly Saturday morning, the family was spotted strolling along the River Mole near a scenic area in nearby Cobham known as The Tilt.

According to one witness, they were silent and stiff-faced,’ but he did not perceive anything sinister at the time.

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

Nothing extraordinary occurred.

This week, a family friend asserted, “There were no disagreements and no indication that he would commit such a heinous act shortly thereafter.”

Midnight, however, Emma made a frantic phone call to her sister Deborah, who jumped in her car and fled their home in south-east London. She arrived at Emma’s grace-and-favor head teacher residence on the vast grounds of Epsom College at 1 a.m. to find her sister, niece, and brother-in-law dead.

Their deaths are all the more shocking because the Pattisons, who had been married for 12 years, appeared to have the ideal family life that so many people strive for.

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Emma was one of the most successful teachers in the United Kingdom and had been Epsom College’s first female principal for only six months.

Her husband was a director of the company. In recent years, they had spent thousands on a dream home and landscaped garden in Caterham, Surrey, where their neighbors admired the expensive automobiles parked in the driveway.

Their only child, the cheerful and vivacious Lettie, was enrolled in a private preparatory school. Emma and her husband both came from close-knit, loving families who adored them unconditionally. Therefore, there is no evidence of the horror brewing behind the scenes.

However, it was revealed this week that the couple’s relationship had been troubled for several years.

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In 2016, when Lettie was barely a year old, Emma was briefly arrested after her husband dialed 999 at midnight during an argument at home, alleging she had struck him in the face.

Two minutes later, with apparent remorse, George Pattison dialed 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.”

The police nevertheless arrived and arrested Emma on suspicion of simple assault. She was questioned early in the morning with a lawyer present before being released without charge.

Given her position as deputy head teacher at a nearby independent secondary school, St. John’s in Leatherhead, it must have been a tremendous relief to learn that the matter would not be pursued further.

During police questioning, however, she revealed that she and her husband were undergoing marriage counseling to resolve their marital issues.

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Detectives were informed that Emma’s high-profile and extremely demanding job was among the issues.

In September 2016, she took another step up the career ladder, assuming her first headship at Croydon High School, a private day school for girls located just outside of London, and assuming additional responsibilities.

It was an extraordinary ascent for a woman raised on a farm in Lincolnshire who, after studying French and English Literature at Leeds University, began her professional life as a graduate trainee at Thomas Cook with the hope of traveling the world.

Instead, Emma Kirk, as she was known at the time, was based in Bromley, South London, which, as she explained in a recent interview, was “not exactly the glittering lights of where I’d envisioned I’d end up.”

In a coffee shop, while perusing a copy of the Times Educational Supplement, the concept of teaching as an alternative profession was conceived.

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Her first teaching position was at Lutterworth College in South Leicestershire, then she moved to Surrey’s private Caterham School in 2005, and in 2008 she became Head of Foreign Languages at Guildford High School.

In 2012, she moved to St John’s School, Leatherhead.

Six years after her appointment as principal of Croydon High School in 2016, Emma was promoted to one of the most coveted positions in UK education.

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’ She assumed the £245k-per-year position in September 2022.

George Pattison, professionally speaking, was living in his wife’s shadow, as Emma’s role as a head teacher required long hours and personal attendance at a multitude of school events on evenings and weekends. They came from distinct backgrounds.

George was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1983, where his father, a civil servant, met his mother, a Jamaican, before the family’s relocation to Kent. In the late 1990s, the couple managed the post office in the village of Eythorne, located near Dover.

John Steel, who has spent nearly four decades in the village, recalls George and his younger sister as “very pleasant” children.

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Later, the Pattisons relocated to nearby Sandwich, where they established their travel agency, and also lived in Deal for some time.

A neighbor there described George and his sister as “extremely attractive, polite, and I recall George as being rather shy.”

George was admitted as a chartered accountant in 2008 after completing his education at Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury and Durham University. He then completed his training with the multinational accounting firm Deloitte.

According to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, because he lacked a practicing certificate and an insolvency license, he was unable to establish an accountancy firm in his name despite having worked in a variety of industries, including corporate finance, investment management, and financial consulting.

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Tanglewood, his consulting firm, had a net worth of only £163 as of its most recent accounts.

In 2012, he turned his back on finance and set his sights on becoming a wine merchant, partnering with an Australian stockbroker.

In a presentation for their UK distributor of German wines, Castle Street Vintners, he described himself as a “career accountant desperate to find something better to do with his time” and an “enthusiastic taster.”

This was a life-altering experience for me, he wrote in his presentation.

In 2014, however, Rees Charles Capital’s financial statements revealed the company owed £318 and was only worth $1,400 before its closure in 2016.

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In 2011, he and Emma were married, the same year that George’s mother Elet, aged 56, passed away. Elette, daughter of Lettie, was named after a grandmother she never met.

This week, Caterham neighbors painted a picture of a couple whose lives have diverged dramatically in recent years.

One recalls that while Emma was at work each day, George “seemed not to work” and was frequently at home, where he “pottered around with his wine and his newspaper,” a behavior that made him appear significantly older than his years.

George appears to have supervised a large-scale renovation of their home in 2018, which included the demolition of an old conservatory and the construction of a new architect-designed rear extension with a roof terrace.

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According to the neighbor, the couple was very dissimilar. Emma, who was frequently seen jogging with her daughter, was “energetic, motivated, and optimistic” and was always eager to say hello.

George, on the other hand, was ‘quiet,’ they said: ‘I got a wave from him, but he wasn’t the talking type. He would only watch football and television while watering the plants.’

During the construction, the couple brought over a bottle of wine to apologize for the noise, according to the neighbor, and Emma joked that the renovations had cost them “a fortune.” He stated that they had spent a lot of money on it, so I hoped they were not incurring debt.

Land Registry records indicate that the couple refinanced the property in January 2022.

By the time they completed their renovations, the home they purchased for nearly £620,00 had been transformed into a modernist fantasy.

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Emma, a talented musician, and singer used to play the grand piano in the ground-floor extension, which featured two sets of bi-fold doors leading to the terraced garden. The master bedroom, meanwhile, had its sun-lounger-equipped balcony.

Emma’s new position as head of Epsom College came with a grand detached house perched on the school’s grounds, and in September of last year, the Caterham residence was put up for sale.

According to former Caterham neighbors, only Emma and Lettie moved into their new grace-and-favor home in Epsom, while George remained in the old family home until the £1.5 million sale closed last month and he turned over the keys to estate agents Hamptons.

In December, Emma spoke to sixth-form students for the school podcast Epsom Insight about this turmoil, telling them, ‘It has been a significant change for my family.

My daughter has started at a new school.

She also expressed her eagerness to experience her first Founder’s Day, when students, parents, faculty, and alumni partake in picnics and games.

By the terms of the shotgun license he held, George notified Surrey Police of his change of address upon moving to his wife’s new residence on school grounds in Epsom.

As homes are only inspected when a license is applied for or renewed, Surrey officers made a routine phone call to George on February 2 to verify that his shotgun was stored properly.

Two days later, police believe he used the same weapon to murder his wife and daughter before committing suicide.

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What may have motivated him to inflict such harm on his loved ones will likely never be known. However, there are additional pressing questions that require answers.

Did law enforcement know, for instance, that George Pattison’s shotgun had been moved to a school address? Governors of the school were aware that such a weapon was kept in a residence and frequently used for school events attended by students.

Those left behind, including Emma’s parents and younger sister, as well as George’s father, who adored his eldest granddaughter, and sister, who has two children, including a daughter just a few months younger than Lettie, must find a way to accept what has occurred.

Since birth, the seven-year-old cousins were close friends and frequently played together.

How in the world do you explain to a child a horror that even adults find difficult to comprehend?