Police hunt for father after family found dead

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The Independent Online

An international manhunt was launched last night for a missing taxi driver after the remains of his wife and three young children were found at their home.

Detectives investigating the murders said they wanted to trace 36-year-old Rahan Arshad, who seems to have disappeared about four weeks ago. Police have issued an alert both nationwide and abroad.

A strong smell had alerted neighbours on the quiet road in Greater Manchester where the family lived. Officers initially came to the scene last Friday, but left because there was no indication of any trouble.

On Sunday evening, however, they broke down the door to find the decomposing bodies of Usma Arshad, 35, her five-year-old daughter, Henna, and sons Abbas, eight, and Adam, 11, in different parts of the house.

Police believe the young family could have been killed up to four weeks ago, after the children broke up for the summer holidays. A cause of death had not been established last night and post-mortem examinations will take place at a later date.

Yesterday, an England pendant hanging in the window and a rabbit hutch and football in the back garden of the semi-detached house were reminders of the four murdered inhabitants.

"They were a young family and the children were typical kids - making a noise and kicking footballs around, they all seemed very nice," said one neighbour.

Detective Superintendent Martin Bottomley, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Although the bodies haven't been formally identified, I believe the woman is the mother of the children.

"It is possible they could have been dead for four weeks; the inquiry is at a very early stage. You can imagine with the hot weather what state those bodies were in, and officers were faced with a devastating scene.

"We have alerted every police force in the country. We want to speak to him [Mr Arshad] in relation to the horrendous events in the house. We are liaising with forces abroad."

The family had lived in the house in Cheadle Hulme, near Stockport, for less than a year. Mrs Arshad was believed to have worked at her husband's taxi firm.

But within the past few weeks they disappeared; the curtains were drawn in the front of the house, and milk bottles began to pile up. A private "for sale" sign that had been put up months earlier was taken down four weeks ago.

Rafad Irfha, whose son, Hassan, was a school friend of the youngest boy, Abbas, said he was distraught at the news. Hassan, eight, added: "Abbas was a great friend, he loved football. He was in school on the last day of term and didn't say he would be going away."

Syed Hussain, 22, an assistant at a nearby shop, said: "There was a funny smell coming from the house and flies inside it buzzing around, the police were called on Sunday afternoon and people are very shocked about it all."

Det Supt Bottomley said forces across the country and abroad had been contacted. "We are trying to trace Mr Arshad because he was the fifth occupant of the house. We are concerned for his welfare.

"Mr Arshad hasn't been seen for four weeks and we are keen to trace a silver BMW 320 diesel M sport, registration number SC06 HLZ, which he might be driving," he said.

Another neighbour said: "It's really shocking. The family were quiet and I didn't see very much of them, but you never expect anything like this to happen."

Yesterday, the house and surrounds remained cordoned off as forensics officers combed the area for clues, while others conducted house-to-house inquiries in the neighbourhood.