Murdered mother 'fled to women's refuge'

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A mother who was killed along with her four children had sought sanctuary in a refuge for battered women in another city after fleeing the family home, it emerged yesterday.

The woman, aged 35, who died on Saturday after she was stabbed in the car park of Birmingham New Street railway station, had moved 150 miles from the multi-racial area of Montpelier, Bristol.

She died in a during a row with a man as her two-and-a-half-year-old son, who was later found strangled in the back of a car, was due to be handed over as part of a custody arrangement.

Several hours later police broke down the door of the family's home in West Grove, Bristol, and found the bodies of three other sisters, aged 14, 11 and nine, dead in their beds.

Last night a 38-year-old man, believed to be the woman's husband, was still being questioned by detectives in Birmingham, after being treated in hospital for cuts to his wrists.

Two other boys, believed to be from the same family, escaped the tragedy and were being cared for by their grandparents.

Detectives know the man and woman met at noon on Saturday, when the child was passed to the man at New Street station. In the next two hours the young boy was strangled and left in the car before his mother was stabbed to death.

Yesterday, a businessman told how he tried to save the woman, launching himself at her attacker with his bag until a policewomen disarmed him. Harry Robinson, 48, a financial consultant who served in the Royal Signals regiment, was meeting his wife at the station.

"As I came out of the station I scanned across the car park for my wife's car and I could see directly in front of me an Asian man with a woman at his feet," he said. "He appeared to be punching her and kicking her. I was going to say something to him, shout at him, when I realised there was a very large knife in his hand. I ran towards him, and as I did so, I raised my bag and threw it at him. That knocked him back only about 6ft, against a car.

"He still had the knife in his hand, he came forward again and I thought he was going to come for me. I lifted my bag to defend myself but he totally ignored me and went towards the woman again. I launched forward and threw my bag at him, which knocked him back again.

"Then the police officer arrived at my side and was shouting at him. I don't know whether he dropped the knife or whether she hit him but the knife fell to the ground."

PC Jill Spencer, 21, gave the woman first aid as other officers arrested the man. The woman was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Detective Superintendent Malcolm Ross, leading the inquiry, said: "The whole issue is very probably domestic."

He said the woman had left her Bristol home months ago and moved to the refuge in Edgbaston, south of Birmingham's city centre. "She was living in a refuge to try to give her some respite from some on-going domestic problems," he said.