Third body discovered as search of gutted mansion continues

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The Independent Online

Christopher Foster may have murdered his wife and teenage daughter out of a "perverted sense of altruism," before turning his rifle on himself, criminal psychologists said yesterday.

After a third body was found among the rubble of Osbaston House, believed to be that of 15-year-old Kirstie Foster, a gruesome picture, which implicates her father in the murder of his own family, was beginning to emerge.

While police have not ruled out the possibility the family were killed by an intruder, privately they now believe it is unlikely.

Bailiffs were due to arrive at the family's £1.2m home on the morning of the fire – after Mr Foster accrued debts of £1.8m. In short, the lavish lifestyle he had built for his family: the fleet of sports cars, the stable of horses and the private education for his daughter, was about to disappear.

Keith Ashcroft, a forensic psychologist, said Mr Foster may have believed that he was doing his family a favour by killing them and saving them the difficulty and embarrassment of a penniless future. "People assume that when someone kills their family like this he is mentally ill and has just flipped, but that isn't the case here.

"A considerable amount of planning has gone into this. It's not something that could have been done on the spur of the moment. It was a systematic and detailed annihilation of his whole family and belongings.

"It also seems to me to be a very perverted sense of altruism. He knew the family had financial difficulties and perhaps thought he was saving them from future problems, it is almost as if he thought he was doing this on behalf of his family."

Ged Bailes, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist, added: "If someone has achieved a great deal in their life and then are set to lose it all, it can be a major blow. It is a twisted logic to others, but his logic would have been along the lines of: 'If I can't have this then no one can and I won't let them take it from me'.

"To do this he has taken everything with him. He has not only taken his own life but those of his wife and child. He has killed the animals and burnt the house down. He is saying he doesn't want anyone else to have the lifestyle he built for himself. To be driven to that he must have been convinced he had no future.

"It also has an air of control about it. He has perhaps decided that his wife and daughter were better off with him, in a better place, than continuing to live. It is almost delusional."

Police spent yesterday continuing their search of the Fosters' Shropshire home.

The fires started at just after 5am on Tuesday. Before that, three horses and three dogs were shot in outhouses which were later set on fire too.

The final fire was lit in the main house where various windows and doors had been boarded up. And a horsebox was positioned behind the gates of the property, possibly to slow down the emergency services.

On Friday night, police found the body of Jill Foster, 49 and a man who has yet to be formally identified but is believed to be Mr Foster, 50. All three bodies were found in the main part of the house. Alongside the body of Mrs Foster and the yet unidentified man, was a .22 calibre rifle, which belonged to Mr Foster. Police have confirmed that Mrs Foster died from a gunshot wound to the head and was identified from her dental records.

The man's body was unidentifiable from dental records, but police would not say why.

The third body, assumed to be that of Kirstie Foster, was also discovered in the main part of the house, just yards from the bodies of her mother and what is believed to be her father.

The latest body found has yet to be identified or even removed from the house. "Due to its position, it will take some time to remove," Detective Superintendent Jon Groves, from West Mercia police, said.

It is believed to have been found under a pile of rubble and police have been unable to remove it for fear of disturbing evidence. A forensic archaeologist was expected to help police recover the body.

Officially Mr Foster and his daughter are still unaccounted for but, privately, police believe they have already been found.

Men who killed their families

* Brian Philcox killed himself and his two children on a Welsh hillside after taking them on a Father's Day outing in June this year. Mr Philcox ran a pipe from the exhaust of his vehicle into the car through the window and sat with his children. Before he died, he rang his estranged wife and told her: "I have left you a present – I'll make the papers, just you wait."

* In 1986, Jeremy Bamber was convicted of murdering five members of his family at their Essex home in an attempt to claim an inheritance of almost £500,000. He shot his parents, sister and twin nephews and tried to blame it on his sister, a paranoid schizophrenic. He was caught after his fingerprints were found on the gun, although he has always protested his innocence.

* Neil Entwistle, a British computer programmer, shot his American wife, Rachel, and their nine-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, at their home in Hopkinton, Massachusetts in January 2006. He claimed to have found them dead before fleeing to Britain, first to his parents' house and then to the home of a university friend. He was jailed for life in June.