Carnage in Shropshire as man slaughters his family

Town of Oswestry was scene of another double murder-suicide in 2008
Click to follow
The Independent Online

On Thursday evening Francesca McFall posted messages on the social networking website Facebook, talking about her excitement at getting a date for a Valentine's ball and uploading pictures of her friends eating cakes and drinking Bucks Fizz at a recent birthday party.

Yesterday morning the 18-year-old was dead, murdered by her father who also killed his wife before taking his own life.

Francesca, known as Frankie, was found dead beside her mother, Susan, 55, at their detached suburban home in Oswestry, Shropshire, just after 5am. Hugh McFall was discovered a few hours later, about 9.30am, in an industrial unit after apparently hanging himself.

It is a tragedy similar to the one which struck the small market town 18 months ago. In August 2008, Christopher Foster shot dead his wife and 15-year-old daughter before setting fire to their mansion and turning the gun on himself.

While Foster's motive was financial – mounting debts meant he was unable to keep his family in the lavish lifestyle to which they were accustomed – the latest double murder-suicide to hit Oswestry is unexplained.

Neighbours described the family as "ordinary". Mr McFall's florist business, Growing Places, did not appear to be in financial trouble.

Yesterday, West Mercia Police, which has 40 officers working on the case, confirmed that it had been called to a house in Hampton Road, Oswestry, where the bodies of two women were discovered.

Later it said officers had found a third body, that of a man, at a business premises three miles away. As a result of that discovery police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the three deaths.

While it is thought Mr McFall hanged himself in the storage lock-up where he kept his flowers, police would not reveal how the women died. Officers refused to formally identify the victims last night, saying that one close relative was still to be informed. But neighbours named them as the McFall family.

Mrs McFall has two other children, Nikki and Dan, from a previous marriage.

Next door neighbour James Bond said he had been good friends with the family. The 51-year-old said: "It is stunning news. I cannot believe it, it hits you right between the eyes. Something has happened that has made him flip.

"He was a lovely, mild-mannered man. He was friendly and rational and would help out at a moment's notice, he was a good friend.

"It is ludicrous, this is so out of character, he has acted like he was out of his mind."

Mr Bond said police knocked on his door early yesterday morning and broke the news that Mrs McFall and her daughter had been killed, telling him they were "desperate to find the husband".

"We told them he had a lock-up in St Martins, which is where they found him," Mr Bond said.

Neighbours told how Mr McFall ran his florist business while his wife worked part-time in a branch of HSBC bank and in a supermarket. Their daughter had been head girl at her secondary school, The Marches, and was in the sixth form at Oswestry School.

Some neighbours said the girl had spoken about taking a year out after her A-level exams to go travelling in Nepal, where she planned to volunteer in local hospitals. Others said she was due to attend Warwick University.

Her most immediate plans were to attend a Valentine's Day ball at her school last night, an event which was cancelled in the wake of her death. Her last message on Facebook read: "Buzzing for the V' ball with my date."

Her date was 17-year-old Max Payne, a fellow pupil at Oswestry School. Last night Max said: "Frankie was a bright and beautiful girl who was always full of fun. I am just lost for words.

"Frankie and I never had any discussions about her home life that would indicate she had anything other than a great relationship with her mother and father. We were great friends and I will miss her so much."

As well as her Facebook page, which included pictures of Francesca with her parents, the teenager also had a profile on the networking site Bebo. Poignantly, she had posted lyrics from a song which included the line: "I'm too young to die."

As news of her death broke, friends posted messages of condolence online. Joe Croxon wrote: "I just don't get it. She was so nice and sweet and honest. There was nothing bad in her at all." Other neighbours also spoke of their shock. Eirwen Ashton, 88, said: "I have lived here for 25 years and this is a such a lovely quiet area. It's a terrible tragedy, they were good neighbours and good people as far as I knew.

"I saw the daughter Francesca only last week. She looked happy enough to me. I haven't heard any shouting or arguing coming from the house, if anything they were a really quiet family." A shopkeeper, who asked not to be named, added: "They were a very special family. I just find it hard to believe it has happened. I worked with Sue for years and years. They were so helpful. Nothing was too much trouble for them.

"They were a smashing couple. They went skiing to Switzerland last week and seemed very happy."

Farewell from Frankie: Her final messages

*At 20:32 Frankie wrote on her Facebook page "and she WILL go to the ball..."

*At 20:51 she added "Buzzing for the V'ball with my date Max Payne :)"

*At 22:16, her last post, she uploaded 32 pictures of her and her friends at a recent birthday party.

*On her Bebo page she posted lyrics from a song called "Finders Keepers" by British rock band You Me at Six:

Will you keep me in line [sic]?

I like secrets

Cause they keep me in line.

Old habits die hard

But I'm too young to die

*On the same page she filled in a questionnaire which asked "Do You... Get along with your Parents?" She responded: "Yehh boii".