Two bodies found in hunt for woman and disabled daughter

Estranged husband flies from New Zealand to be told of tragic discovery

Police divers searching for a missing florist and her disabled daughter recovered two bodies yesterday from a lake near the family's Cotswolds home.

Jude Richmond, 42, and Millie Whitehead-Richmond, aged nine, had been missing since Sunday evening. The youngster had cerebral palsy and her mother was thought to be having business and relationship problems. The announcement of the discovery was withheld so that Mrs Richmond's husband, Nick, a City broker, could be told the news in person by detectives when he arrived at Heathrow from New Zealand.

It is believed the couple had recently separated and Mr Richmond decided to return to the UK on learning from a neighbour that his wife and stepdaughter had been reported missing on Monday.

Mrs Richmond ran a successful florist, providing bouquets for the Queen Mother, Sudeley Castle where Liz Hurley married, Pink Floyd and West End shows. But she closed her shop Camelia, in South Cerney, Gloucestershire, at Christmas. Police said she was vulnerable and distressed.

The lake, part of the Cotswolds Water Park, was immediately behind the family home, part of an upmarket development of large properties, many with their own private landing jetties.

Yesterday, forensic experts were at work at the semi-detached home which was sealed with plastic while officers continued to scour the surrounding countryside where Mrs Richmond used to walk. Search dogs and a police helicopter had also been deployed. The bodies were taken away by hearse.

Gloucestershire Police said it was too early to say if the deaths were suspicious. Officers had been investigating reports that Mrs Richmond was seen on Sunday in the arms of an unidentified man. He was described as white, in his 40s, about 6ft and of large build, with broad shoulders and dark-blond, spiky hair. But police said they did not intend to release any more witness appeals.

Millie's father, Neil Whitehead, an architect from London, had earlier made a fresh appeal for the pair to contact police, saying his wife had appeared "calm and sensible" the day before she went missing. He paid tribute to his daughter, describing her as "one of the most charismatic, fun-loving, humorous, attractive girls you could hope to meet; she is almost magical".

There are more than 100 lakes in the area, each overlooked by large new development properties, with yacht clubs, gastro pubs and restaurants. Inspector Owen Hughes said: "There are numerous lines to this investigation; we are not ruling anything out at this stage. We have officers dedicated to looking after loved ones. Our sympathies are with the family at this time."

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