A murder investigation was under way yesterday after the bodies of a mother and her two young daughters were discovered at their home.
Police found the bodies of 25-year-old Lisa Higgins and her daughters, Kighley, six, and Demmy, three, after a routine call to their home in the Wolverhampton suburb of Willenhall after a car accident.
Neighbours said the family had lived at the address with Lisa's partner, Spencer Smith, for the past three years.
A 27-year-old man from Willenhall was recovering in a Shropshire hospital yesterday after his car collided with a tree. Police arrested him after they discovered the bodies when they went to inform Ms Higgins of the accident. The surname of the girls was not known and police have not said whether the man arrested was related to them or their mother.
Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani, of the West Midlands police force, confirmed yesterday that the woman was the mother of the children.
He said the man was injured when his car was involved in a collision on the A41 at Tong on the Shropshire and Staffordshire border, near junction 3 of the M54, on Christmas Eve.
"Following the incident police found the bodies of a 25-year-old woman and her two young children at an address in Willenhall," he added.
"They suffered fatal injuries and we are waiting to talk to a man who is injured in hospital. The man is out of the operating theatre and stable but will require further surgery. It is always a tragic scene for officers when women and children are involved but it is even more tragic at this time of year."
He added that police still did not know what had triggered the events at the house, where presents for the girls were unopened. "We are treating this as a murder inquiry but we are keeping an open mind," he said.
An officer is believed to have gained entry to the house at 7.35pm on Christmas Eve after spotting the woman's body through a window. Part of the road was sealed off and police began conducting house-to-house inquiries. Post-mortem examinations on all three bodies are being carried out to establish the cause of the deaths.
George Hough, 80, who lives next door to the family's home, said he and his wife Jean were shocked by the events in what was normally a quiet street.
"We are terribly upset," he said. "The two girls were lovely children and the whole family were very nice. We did not know them that well but they were all very polite. Spencer used to help me with my bins. We are so upset I do not think that we will be able to eat our Christmas dinner."
Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said the family had appeared to be happy. She said: "I can't believe something like this has happened. It's terrible. It's something you don't expect in your own street. As far as I could see, they were happy. I have never seen them arguing."
Meanwhile, detectives investigating the death of a policewoman and her husband revealed yesterday that she had been stabbed to death.
Police believe that PC Clare Mace, 23, was killed and her husband, Richard, committed suicide. Officers broke into their home in Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire, after neighbours raised the alarm.