'Murder-suicide' father 'was caring for children'

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A man believed to have killed his two young daughters before committing suicide was caring for them for the first time since he split from their mother, his friend said today.

The father, named locally as David Cass, was found with the two children at Paynes Road Car Sales in Southampton yesterday.

Mr Cass, 32, had worked at the garage for four years, according to his boss John Martin, but resigned on Friday.

Mr Martin said Mr Cass had seemed depressed over the last few weeks because of relationship problems with his girlfriend, who lives in the Fair Oak area of Eastleigh, Hampshire.

He told reporters: "He said to me he was going away and he had a plan. I said 'Don't do anything stupid'."

Mr Cass had been living part of the time in a caravan at the garage, which is mainly an MoT testing centre.

He was also living nearby with his mother and sister.

The dead children were aged one and three and Mr Martin said the younger one was called Ellie.

The owner of the garage, John Mayhew, said that police had told him Mr Cass had smothered his two children in the caravan and then gone into the garage and hanged himself.

A friend of Mr Cass, Paul Timberlake, said he was stunned about what had happened. "You would never have thought this of him," he said. "He was such a nice bloke, he'd do anything for anyone and was very helpful and he absolutely loved his children.

"I saw him two weeks ago and he was fine but I know he was having wife trouble.

"I've spoken to my daughter who is friends with the mother and she told me that this was the first weekend he'd been allowed to have them (the children) since the split.

"Everyone is stunned and no-one can believe it."

A Hampshire Police spokesman said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the three deaths.

At the scene forensic officers were examining both the caravan and inside the garage, which remains cordoned off.

Mr Mayhew said he had been told his premises could be closed for some time while officers pieced together exactly what had happened.

He said he also believed that Mr Cass phoned his estranged girlfriend and other family members in the minutes before he murdered his children and then killed himself.

According to reports, the girls' mother dialled 999 after receiving the call, and a police search was launched.