The headmistress of Epsom College made a distressed call to a close family member hours before she was shot by her husband, sources have said.
Emma Pattison, 45, is understood to have called a relative on Saturday evening with concerns about her husband.
Her body was discovered later that night along with the bodies of her seven-year-old daughter Lettie and husband George, 39.
In the first tribute from a friend of Mrs Pattison, Zoe Roberts said: “It is tragic and we wish this had never happened. She was beautiful, inside and out. She was just the most wonderful person.
“We can’t put it into words at the moment, it is too raw. We are still working it out. It is just a tragic loss.”
Police said on Tuesday that they were treating the incident as a murder investigation. A source briefed by officers said that police believed Mr Pattison shot his wife and daughter before killing himself.
A firearm registered to Mr Pattison was found at the family’s home.
He had been in contact with the police on Thursday about his gun licence to notify them of a previous change of address, which is routine. Surrey police have now referred themselves to the independent police watchdog over the murder-suicide.
It is thought that Mrs Pattison’s sister received the phone call on the night she was killed. She and her partner are believed to have rushed to the scene where the bodies were found.
Mr Pattison had never previously been reported to the police, it is understood. However, he made a complaint about his wife in 2016 following a domestic dispute. Police arrived at their home but he withdrew the complaint.
Shortly before Christmas, Mrs Pattison indicated that her appointment as the first female head of Epsom College, where she started in September, had put stress on the family.
She said: “In terms of transition, it’s been a really big change for my family. So we’ve obviously moved house, we’ve got a dog, I’ve got a new job, my husband’s got a new job, which wasn’t meant to happen but did, and my daughter has started at a new school.”
Mr Pattison, a chartered accountant, had a significantly lower profile than his wife, a widely respected school leader who had been head of Croydon High School, an independent girls’ school, before she was chosen to lead one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country.
A former neighbour said that Mr Pattison had liked “sporty cars” and “pottered around with his wine and his paper”, seeming older than his years. He also “seemed to not work”, and one neighbour suggested his wife could have been the breadwinner of the family.
Mr Pattison incorporated the management consultancy firm Tanglewood, for which he was the sole director, in 2016.
Accounts for the year ending October 31 2021, showed Mr Pattison had taken out a director’s loan for £14,076.
Land Registry documents show a mortgage was taken out on the family home in Caterham in January 2022, eight years after they bought the property for around £600,000.
The family had lived at the four-bedroom home while Mrs Pattison was head teacher at Croydon High School. They sold it for £1.5 million when she began her role at Epsom College in September 2022.
Surrey Police said an investigation was being carried out to establish the full chronology and circumstances of the incident. Causes of death will not be confirmed until post-mortem examinations have been completed later this week, officers said in a statement.
An IOPC spokesman said: “We have received a referral from Surrey Police about an incident in Epsom on February 5 as an officer at the force had contact with Mr Pattison last week. We are assessing the available information to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.”
Paul Williams, acting headmaster of Epsom College, told parents on Tuesday that he had decided to close the school following the “incredibly distressing” details of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Pattison family members.
In a letter, he wrote: “The shock and horror of the past few days have been unprecedented. The impact on your children cannot be underestimated and we are doing everything we can to support them in whatever way they need.”
He said it was time for families “to come together and try to process this shocking news.” Day pupils will leave school on Tuesday evening and will not be expected to return until after half term.
Weekly boarders are permitted to stay on Tuesday evening but should be collected by parents on Wednesday. Full boarders are able to stay until the scheduled start of the half term break on Friday, parents were told.