London - An elderly British millionaire shot his sick wife dead then turned his shotgun on himself because he was worried about living alone, neighbours said yesterday.

Harold Ambrose, 82, rang police to say he had killed his wife Wendy, 77, and was going to take his own life.

Officers rushed to the couple’s £1.5 million thatched cottage in the village of Boxted, near Colchester, Essex, and found his body in the garden.

His wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer, had been shot in the head as she sat in a living room chair.

Essex Police were continuing investigations on Monday night but said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.

A close friend and neighbour, who asked not to be named, said Mr Ambrose, a retired insurance underwriter who had early stage dementia, may have performed a “mercy killing” on his wife and was not prepared to live without her.

“Mr Ambrose was a classic country gentleman – very traditional and law-abiding,” he said.

“We know his wife had suffered from poor health for several years. Recently she had been in and out of hospital with respiratory problems. My understanding is that he wanted to end her pain and could not bear to live without her.”

Another neighbour said: “They were delightful. They were very dedicated (to each other) and had lived in the cottage all their married life as far as I knew.

“I got the feeling that if one wasn’t there, the other would not feel complete.”

Anne Grant, who lives nearby, added: “They were pillars of the community. They were really smart and a couple who were very loving and close to one another. Wendy hadn’t been well and Harold was in the early stages of dementia.”

Police were contacted by Mr Ambrose early on Saturday morning and discovered the tragic scene shortly afterwards.

The road was closed over the weekend for forensic teams to search the area, but the cordon was lifted on Monday.

A post-mortem examination showed Mr Ambrose died from a single shotgun wound to the face. His wife, a retired secretary, had two head wounds.

The couple married in 1956 and had one daughter Clare, who is understood to be disabled and living in a care home.

A bouquet of flowers from family members was leaning against the neat picket fence that surrounds the property on Monday, but relatives were too upset to comment.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Werrett said: “I do not believe anyone else was involved in their deaths. Our enquiries will continue and a report will be submitted to the coroner in due course.

“The house will remain under police control while other searches are ongoing.”

A police spokesman confirmed the shotgun used in the shootings had been licensed to Mr Ambrose.