Like many in North Norfolk I remain in shock, after hearing of the tragedy which unfolded last Sunday in Cromer, when the former mayor Keith Johnson shot his wife and then took his own life. You never think something like this will happen to someone you know. But Keith and Andrea Johnson were known to virtually everyone in Cromer and were both liked and respected. Keith had given much of his life to serving the local community and did a brilliant job as mayor of Cromer between 1997 and 2004. I got to know them both just before they got married in 2004 and it was clear they were devoted to each other. Andrea had a brilliant sense of humour and she was very supportive to me when I was the parliamentary candidate in the constituency, as was Keith. I remember when Michael Howard visited Cromer and a local fisherman accosted the then Tory leader in the street about the fact that Cromer didn’t want a candidate who was gay. Later that day Keith and Andrea took me aside and assured me that this man didn’t speak for anyone but himself and that I shouldn’t take any notice of his bigotry. Keith was a man who held very traditional values, but blind to prejudice.
Only six months ago Keith took over as leader of North Norfolk District Council. After the chaotic and often shambolic regime of his predecessor he had a difficult task ahead of him, but in a very short time he had united the ruling Tory group and gained the respect of the council officers. Keith was a reluctant leader, but reluctant leaders who are not overburdened by ambition often prove to be the best sort.
Nearly a week on from the tragic events in Compit Hills mystery still defines what happened. Inevitably there will be much speculation about what lay behind Sunday’s events. Few of us can comprehend how anyone could be driven to shoot the person they love, and perhaps we will never know the reason. In fact, part of me hopes we never do, because some things deserve to be kept private. The national papers have shown a ghoulish fascination with the deaths of Keith and Andrea. I understand why, but part of discomforts me.
The shock to a very close community will continue to reverberate for a long time to come, especially on the Compit Hills estate. I hope people don’t keep their feelings to themselves. Talking to each other is often the best antidote to shock.