A murder investigation has been launched after one of Britain’s richest men was found stabbed to death.
Sir Richard Lexington Sutton, an 83-year-old baronet, was attacked on Wednesday at his country mansion near Gillingham in Dorset. A woman who is believed to be his partner also received knife injuries.
A 34-year-old man from the Gillingham area was arrested on suspicion of murder and was taken to hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening. He and the couple were known to each other, according to Dorset police.
Tributes have been paid to Sutton by friends including Sir Simon Hoare, the Conservative MP for North Dorset, who described him as a “country gentleman”.
“He was a charming man, he had a very good sense of humour, he was politically astute and genial,” Hoare said. “If you wanted to conjure up a picture of a country gentleman then that was him. It is a huge loss for his family in what is clearly deeply awful circumstances.”
The family wealth of the landowner and businessman was estimated at £301m in the 2020 Sunday Times rich list. He owned a large portfolio of farms, properties and hotels including the five-star Sheraton Grand in London’s Park Lane Athenaeum.
The woman who was injured in the incident was reported to be Anne Schrieber, 65, his long-term partner and physiotherapist who runs her own practice in the nearby village of Milborne St Port.
Police said on Thursday that they received a report at 7.30pm on Wednesday raising concern for the welfare of the occupants of an address in the hamlet of Higher Langham. Officers attended the detached property, known as Moorhill, where they found the couple with serious stab wounds.
Sutton was pronounced dead at the scene at around 9.15pm while his partner was airlifted to Southmead hospital in Bristol, where she remained in a critical condition.
Following what the force described as “fast-time enquiries” by officers, a Range Rover believed to be linked to the incident was identified on its way to London and was stopped in Hammersmith, in the west of the city, where the suspect was arrested.
A statement issued by the baronet’s company, Sir Richard Sutton Limited, said staff were “deeply saddened and devastated by the sudden death”.
It said: “Sir Richard was a caring, generous and warm family man, who genuinely regarded those who worked for him as part of his extended family. Sir Richard was passionately devoted to both his company and its people, setting the highest and standards for quality in the hotels, farming and property interests within the group.”
Dorset police’s major crime investigation team have appealed for members of the public with information to come forward.
DI Simon Huxter said: “Our thoughts are with the family of the man who sadly died and the injured woman at this extremely difficult time and they are being supported by specially trained officers.
“We will be carrying out a full investigation to establish exactly what happened at the address in Higher Langham and I would appeal to anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area on the evening of Wednesday 7 April 2021 to please contact us.”
Sutton bought Moorhill in 2014 for £1.4m. He was reported to have been divorced from his first wife, Fiamma Sutton, and had two children, David, 61, and Caroline, 55, and five grandchildren.
He inherited his title and estate from his father in 1981. In total he and his family own close to 7,000 acres of land across the UK – more than double the amount owned by the Ministry of Defence.