A mother and her two daughters were found stabbed to death and their father was discovered hanging at a house in a quiet New Forest town on Monday afternoon.
The dead family was discovered by the grandmother of the girls, who were named as Phoebe, aged two, and one-year-old Nereya.
A neighbour who went into the house in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, described the scene as ‘the most appalling thing I have ever lived through’.
The dead couple were named by neighbours as Vicky and Andy Case.
It was suggested that the couple had been suffering serious financial problems. Mr Case, 32, was employed as a delivery driver and Mrs Case was a nursery teacher.
The couple had been together for 15 years and married for 10 years.
Alayna Brooks, who lives just a few houses away from the scene, was the second person to go into the house where the family were found dead.
Miss Brooks, 53, said how the children’s grandmother screamed and ran into the street crying ‘My babies are dead’.
Miss Brooks then ran across the road and went inside the house, on Provost Street, where she first saw the body of the children’s mother in the dining room.
Miss Brooks said the two girls were found dead in a double bed upstairs in the family home.
The father, named locally as Andy, was found hanged. Miss Brooks added; ‘I was appalled. It was the most appalling thing I have ever lived through.
‘The first thing I thought when I saw the woman dead was “Are the babies alive?” I went upstairs. He was hanging. I shook his leg and I said, “Just wake up, you’ve got a family”, but it was just not happening.
‘I was distressed. I saw the little girls side-by-side in the double bed. They were dead.’
Miss Brooks said the house was peaceful inside, with toys scattered about like any typical family home where young children lived.
‘It was horrific. They were a beautiful family. As neighbours we knew each other. I’m appalled, upset and shocked.’
The neighbour said the deaths had come as a shock to the village, adding: ‘It’s a small, close community. Everybody knows each other.’
A male shop worker in Fordingbridge, who did not wish to be named, said the family had not lived in the area for long.
‘They were quite new to the town, as far as I’m aware,’ he said.
‘I have worked here for many years and I know most of the people in the town.
‘I believe that it all happened in the house and the police presence is quite minimal now.’
A cordon was set up around the scene which lies in a pretty street of terraced and semi-detached houses, some with
Fordingbridge is a former market town with a population of just over 6,000, on the bank of the River Avon.
Acting Superintendent Gary Cooper, of Hampshire police, confirmed that a member of the family raised the alarm.
He said: ‘We believe it was a relative who came to the address this morning. On entering the address, they found four people dead. The scene is still being examined as it is a very recent incident.’
When asked if they had suffered a ‘violent’ death, he said: ‘It is a very unusual occurrence but something we are investigating with scenes of crime officers and the major crime branch.’
Malcolm Connolly, the Mayor of Fordingbridge and a resident of the town for 28 years, said: ‘This is a small market town with just six or seven thousand inhabitants, a very close-knit community, and this tragedy will be felt by everybody.
‘It’s such a huge thing. I don’t know how to put it into words.
‘I don’t know the names of the people as I believe they’re much younger than me and live in what I would class as younger people’s accommodation but I’m sure they’ll have quite a wide friendship base.
‘It’s a tragedy that will be felt by an awfully wide range of people.’
The house where the bodies were found is set back from a quaint row of cottages next to a picturesque stream at the heart of the New Forest.
The access drive was sealed off by police tape this afternoon, with officers standing guard while scenes of crime officers (Soco) wearing white body suits could be seen entering the property.