Man held after four members of family shot dead at home

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The Independent Online

Four family members shot dead at close range were discovered in their home yesterday after a man walked into a police station claiming he was carrying a homemade nail bomb.

The victims, believed to be related to the man, who is in custody, were in the Benwell Grove area of Newcastle, and included a man and woman in their 70s and two men in their 40s.

The suspect, who was 40 and believed to be a Gulf War veteran, was carrying a handgun with a silencer, a pump-action shotgun and a bag holding an improvised explosive device, described by police as a "thunderflash with nails around it", when he entered Westgate police station, half a mile from the murder scene.

Northumbria Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. Officers said the man had a history of mental illness and "may be ex-military" but stressed that the incident was not terrorist-related. They called in an Army bomb disposal team, who disarmed the improvised device with a controlled explosion.

Police later found two bodies in a living room of the house and two in the kitchen. They were fully clothed. Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Mathieson said there were no signs of a struggle and no shots were heard by neighbours.

"They had all suffered fatal gunshot wounds fired at close range, which means there was very little blood at the scene," he said. The bodies were left in the house until full forensic evidence could be gathered.

The man in custody, he added, was thought to have military experience. " We believe he has a mental illness. The extent of that we've still to clarify, but clearly that's a line of inquiry for the investigatory team. At this stage, it is not possible to say how the firearms came to be in possession of this man.

"There was believed to be an improvised explosive device in the holdall. That was essentially believed to be a thunderflash device with nails tied around it and we were informed of that by the male concerned," he said. Mr Matheson said the four people who were related, were themselves "closely related" to the man in custody. He was not believed to be a licensed firearms holder.

Residents close to the house were moved to a nearby community centre. A 25-year-old neighbour in Benwell Grove said a married couple lived in the house. "They just kept themselves to themselves and were very nice people," she said. "Sadly, they lost their daughter to cancer last year and she was only 32. Nobody knows what has happened but everyone is shocked."

The Benwell Grove area, in the west end of Newcastle, is largely residential, with a mixed ethnic population including a significant Asian community.

Northumbria Police Superintendent Graham Davis said he believed the community was safe. "The area is cosmopolitan and vibrant," he said. "Crime has been reduced by 40 per cent in the past two years."