Mother died of multiple stab wounds

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The Independent Online

A young mother whose body was found alongside that of her baby daughter died of multiple stab wounds.

Stephanie Bellinger, 24, and eight-month-old Lily were found at their home in Totton, near Southampton, Hampshire, by a relative on Saturday.

Miss Bellinger's partner Anthony Marsh, the father of her baby, has not been seen since and is suspected of murdering them both.

The cause of death was revealed after a post-mortem examination was conducted on Miss Bellinger's body yesterday. One will be carried out on her daughter today.

Mr Marsh, 21, is thought to have a history of mental health problems.

His mother made an emotional plea for him to come forward at a press conference.

Wendy Marsh struggled to speak and passed her statement to a family liaison officer as she collapsed in tears.

Det Con John Woodward addressed Mr Marsh on behalf of his mother, who was visibly trembling, saying: "Anthony, if you are watching or if you read or hear this please understand that all your family are very concerned about you.

"They are here to support you in any way they can. It is pointless to run away or hide.

"Whatever has happened, you must now hand yourself into the police or phone them and tell them where you are.

"Please Anthony, for the sake of all the family."

Dressed in a black jacket, Mrs Marsh had to be helped out of the room by police officers after the brief statement was made.

The public has been warned not to approach "dangerous" Mr Marsh, who is thought to be armed.

Speaking at the briefing at Southampton Police Station yesterday, Det Ch Insp Colin Mathews said: "I would repeat that we consider Mr Marsh to be a dangerous man who should not be approached by the public. We have reason to believe that he may be in possession of a knife."

Officers said Mr Marsh has been known to sleep rough in churches and travel by rail, and appealed for anyone who had seen him to come forward.

Det Ch Insp Mathews added: "Mr Marsh has also been known to take long walks within the New Forest National Park and had a favourite spot he liked to visit.

"It is between Lyndhurst and Bournemouth and known locally as the Devil's Dyke near Burley.

"If you are a dog walker, a horse rider or someone else who has visited the New Forest during the past two days, have you seen someone matching Mr Marsh's description?"

A family friend of Mr Marsh said he was prescribed medication for depression.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said: "Somewhere down the line, someone has failed because they knew he was on medication.

"He was on tablets, but he never took them."

The man, whose children were at school with Mr Marsh, said he last saw him just before Christmas, with his mother.

He said: "I saw them in the car and said hello. He seemed in good spirits."

The friend, who said Mr Marsh's father is a former police detective, went on: "I just feel numb really. It's such a sad thing to happen."

Police confirmed the couple, who lived together in Myrtle Avenue, also had a two-year-old son called Charlie. It is not known if he was in the house when his mother was stabbed.

Flowers for Miss Bellinger and her daughter were left at the scene by well-wishers. A message on one bouquet read: "Such a waste of life. My heart goes out to all the family.

"Rest in peace little angels. Our deepest sympathy."

Mr Marsh is white, 6ft 2ins and slim, with short fair hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo on his left forearm.

One and a half years ago, Mr Marsh sparked a police hunt after vanishing from the family home, according to the Southern Daily Echo.

The former British Gas customer relations adviser was reunited with his family after he was spotted in Weymouth, the newspaper said.