On the 29 December 2009 Andrew Copland, a 56-year-old painter shot to death his estranged partner Julie Harrison and their 4-year-old daughter Maisie Copland. He then took his own life with the same gun. Copland had lured them to his property in Aldershot, Hampshire on the pretence that his daughter was going to stay for a few days between Christmas and New Year. No sooner had they entered his property Copland secured the front door. There was an immediate verbal confrontation quickly followed by Copland’s murderous attack. Close neighbours were so concerned about what they could hear they called the police.

When the emergency services arrived, Copland was dead but Julie Harrison and her daughter were still alive. Maisie Copland died in the arms of a police officer. Her mother was airlifted to hospital but she sadly died the following day.

Julie Harrison had ended their relationship some weeks earlier and Copland was apparently aware that she had met somebody else. Copland had already been convicted in the past for violence directed at his former wife and her then new partner.

He carried out the killings with a 9mm Beretta 1934 model semi-auto pistol. He had found the weapon along with ammunition discarded in a skip on a job site in Frimley some years earlier. The weapon fired the short 9 mm Corto cartridge. He had even discharged the firearm in the property garden on the day he found it and in front of an employer. Copland had never had a firearms certificate, (the gun would not have been permitted anyway). He had kept it illegally, stowed in his loft. Apparently Julie Harrison was aware that he had it.

On Ively Road, south of Fleet, just 4.5 miles from Copland’s home in Aldershot is a large intersection sheltered on all sides by wooded areas. It is close to Farnborough Airfield and some military training locations. Sometime after July 2009, ( When this Google Streetview image below was taken showing a clean structure), someone fired 6 rounds, (9mm or similar), into the back of this same large direction sign.

This configuration is rare because roadside shooters normally target the pictorial side. This incident might suggest a shooter firing from the offside of a vehicle, perhaps someone on their own in the driving seat. The spread of impacts were very widespread. Could this have been Copland, venting his murderous, soulless frustrations in a drunken rage, rehearsing a macabre despicable gun slay. Fired from 8 metres and an angle of 45 degrees the impacts and penetrations varied in consistency. The 1940’s ammunition Copland acquired with the weapon would have laid dormant for long periods in varying temperatures. The propellant in the cartridge cases might have caked thus creating the potential for slight inconsistencies.

Just 300 metres prior to this site and also coming from the Aldershot direction there is another roadsign that has been struck in the back by a similar projectile. Copland’s Beretta held a 7-round magazine. It was a widely issued Italian military sidearm and it became a popular wartime trophy among allied troops.

There is no record of how many war trophy firearms have been brought back into the UK. It has been a common practice since the invention of gunpowder. The penalties for smuggling such weapons back into the UK are now very severe but up to the end of the Second World War the authorities just turned a blind eye. A good proportion of these weapons would have been in extremely good condition, never used in some instances. Guns over one hundred years old can be in mint condition and in perfect working order. They’re still out there.

The damaged sign is still there today for all to see and study. Hampshire Police were unaware of the existence of this structure until 2014. Could this have been Copland? If it wasn’t, somebody else, oddly around the same period armed with a similar firearm perpetrated it. There is likely to be evidence of bullet debris still embedded in the impact depressions. Apparently, there are not the resources available to forensically examine them.

Could Copland have been stopped from using this weapon to murder his family? Of course he could, enough people knew he had it. Sadly nobody did anything.

                           The site remains a potential and macabre “Memento Mori”