Es­cape was im­pos­si­ble…

Su­san John­son was en­joy­ing a won­der­ful Christ­mas with her fam­ily – be­fore a killer barged iné

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As fairy lights twin­kled on the tree, and snow fell out­side, Der­rick Thomp­son, 19, and his girl­friend Alivia Welch, 18, ex­cit­edly ripped open brightly coloured wrap­ping pa­per. It was Christ­mas Day 2012. Filled with ex­cite­ment and still wear­ing their py­ja­mas, the teenagers looked at each other and laughed.

Click, click, clickéa cam­era cap­tured the spe­cial mo­ment.

A joy­ful young cou­ple, ex­cited about their fu­ture.

Der­rick and his mum Su­san John­son, 44, had moved into the rented home in Sokokis Road, Bid­de­ford, Maine, in Oc­to­ber.

Their el­derly land­lord James Pak lived in an apart­ment next door with his wife.

Pak had bought the build­ing five years ear­lier, done up both prop­er­ties, be­fore rent­ing one.

It was the per­fect fam­ily home for Su­san, her younger son, aged 6, and Der­rick.

Like most mums, Su­san was close to her boys.

She and Alivia had bonded, too, with the young girl re­cently mov­ing in. But James Pak wasn’t happy. He com­plained about all the cars in their shared drive­way.

Other neigh­bours knew that James had a bad tem­per, too.

When a young lad across the road had done some work for James, the old man hadn’t been sat­is­fied.

He’d writ­ten to the lad’s dad, ask­ing for a re­fund.

The fam­ily had re­fused, and Pak had left a nasty voice­mail on their home phone.

Pak was, it had to be said, a bit of a Scrooge. His ten­ants usu­ally only lasted in the prop­erty for a year.

Some had even com­plained of Pak snoop­ing, look­ing in their win­dows.

Now, in the midst of a beau­ti­ful, snowy Christ­mas, Su­san and her fam­ily tried to put the fric­tion with their land­lord out of their minds.

But, days af­ter open­ing their presents un­der the tree in their open-plan lounge, the fes­tive spirit evap­o­rated in Sokokis Road.

On 29 De­cem­ber 2012, James Pak had con­fronted Der­rick in the drive­way, rant­ing about the way that he was shov­el­ling snow.

Then, at 6.07pm, Der­rick had made a phone call to the po­lice.

He’d said that James Pak was ‘freak­ing out’.

‘Can you send a cruiser, like im­me­di­ately, I got my land­lord freak­ing out at me, as you can hear in the back­ground,’ Der­rick told the op­er­a­tor.

‘He’s giv­ing me death threats, point­ing his fingers like it’s a gun go­ing “bang”. I got it all on video. All I’m try­ing to do is shovel.’

When two of­fi­cers came to the ad­dress, they talked to both fam­i­lies and ruled it a civil mat­ter.

Noth­ing to do with the po­lice.

But, no sooner had the of­fi­cers driven away, than a fu­ri­ous James Pak had barged into Su­san’s home.

There was nowhere to es­cape as he pulled out

James Pak had a bad tem­per, was a bit of a Scrooge

a small sil­ver gun.

Then Pak an­nounced, ‘I’m go­ing to shoot you. I’m go­ing to shoot you all.’

Sec­onds later, two shots rang out, send­ing Su­san fly­ing back­wards.

Land­ing against the Christ­mas tree, she fell on the wall be­hind it and slid down to the floor.

Slumped un­der the tree, where just days ear­lier mounds of presents had lain, Su­san saw blood spat­tered up the wall. Hers… Pain ripped through her. She’d been shot, once in the arm and once in the back.

She lay still – played dead so that Pak wouldn’t shoot her again.

She heard Alivia des­per­ately beg­ging for Pak not to shoot, then more gun­shots. Then Pak left, spar­ing Su­san’s 6-year-old, who hid in an­other room. The house fell silent. From where she lay wounded un­der the tree, Su­san couldn’t see Der­rick or Alivia.

She called out to them, but they didn’t re­spond.

And then Su­san re­alised the aw­ful truth… both of them were dead.

She thought she soon would be, too – and, gasp­ing for breath, she called the po­lice.

‘My neigh­bour just came in and shot us!’ she said. ‘Please hurry!’

It must have felt like for­ever un­til the po­lice of­fi­cers deemed it safe to en­ter, tak­ing the 6-year-old boy to a neigh­bour’s house and rush­ing Su­san by am­bu­lance to hospi­tal.

All the while, James Pak – still armed – was holed up in his apart­ment, the po­lice ne­go­ti­at­ing his sur­ren­der.

A po­lice dis­patcher – an emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional – was on the phone to Pak’s wife Ar­mit.

Pak was hold­ing a gun, talk­ing about dy­ing.

‘I’m gonna die any­way. I want to die,’ he was heard say­ing.

In the call, the dis­patcher heard Pak say, ‘No­body lis­ten. And I’ve been warn­ing and warn­ing... they’re dead. No more laugh at me no more.’

Trag­i­cally, Der­rick and Alivia were con­firmed dead – they’d died where they’d fallen in a hail of Pak’s bul­lets.

Pak was even­tu­ally ar­rested af­ter the stand-off with the po­lice and im­me­di­ately con­fessed to the shoot­ings. How­ever, when charged with the mur­ders, Pak pleaded not guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity. Yet psy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions proved he was aware of what he’d done.

He’d known it was wrong.

So he changed his plea, spar­ing his fam­ily – and the vic­tims’ rel­a­tives – the hor­ror of re­liv­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing through a trial.

‘I am guilty and I’m not dis­agree­ing,’ Pak, wear­ing an or­ange prison jump­suit, an­nounced in court.

At York County Su­pe­rior Court in Fe­bru­ary 2016, James Pak, 77, fi­nally pleaded guilty to mur­der­ing Der­rick and Alivia and at­tempt­ing to mur­der Su­san.

Many on­look­ers in the court gallery were vis­i­bly upset.

Sobs were heard as the court was told Pak had car­ried out the at­tack ‘me­thod­i­cally’, first shoot­ing Su­san, then open­ing fire on Der­rick.

Fi­nally, he’d shot Alivia in the back as she’d begged for her life. Pak was jailed for life. Su­san John­son said she was haunted by the hor­ror of that night. That she’d never for­get the en­raged look on Pak’s face as he fired.

Pay­ing tribute to Der­rick and Alivia, she said, ‘They were good kids. They were start­ing their life. It’s not fair.’

And – while she sur­vived – for Su­san, Christ­mas will never be the same again.

Su­san was haunted by the hor­ror of that night

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