Husband held as bodies found near family home

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The Independent Online

A man whose wife and four children went missing more than a month ago was being held by police on suspicion of murder last night after three bodies were found in a woodshed behind the family home.

A man whose wife and four children went missing more than a month ago was being held by police on suspicion of murder last night after three bodies were found in a woodshed behind the family home.

The badly decomposed corpses were discovered near Helston, Cornwall, early yesterday. Lesley Ford, 36, and her two teenage sons and daughters from a previous marriage vanished from the remote hamlet of Carnkie on 27 August.

Lee Ford, 33, a removal worker, was being questioned by police at Camborne.

Post-mortem examinations on the three bodies were not expected to be completed until later today but police said last night that the search for thefive missing people had been called off.

Today, officers will continue to excavate part of a field at Treluswell, six miles from Carnkie, where what appeared to be human remains were found late yesterday afternoon.

Sgt Alan Mobbs, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "We have found what could be a fourth body. We cannot be absolutely certain it is a human body at the moment. We are waiting until the Home Office pathologist can go to the scene to carry out an examination."

Another police spokesman, Sgt Dave Anning, said: "We are no longer actively searching for Mrs Ford and the four children.

"Excavations will continue at the second site where we have reasons to be believe there are further remains."

Police were only alerted to the disappearances last week when Mrs Ford's brother in Hampshire phoned to say he had not heard from his sister and was not aware she had any plans to go on holiday.

Despite police publicly insisting until yesterday they were dealing with a routine missing persons' inquiry, specialist search officers were sent to Carnkie - a small pebble-dashed bungalow called Rocklyn, with surrounding gardens - to begin an exhaustive search of the property, including the ashes of a bonfire in the rear garden.

Police medical experts, including a Home Office pathologist, spent five hours yesterday uncovering the remains in the 20ft long woodshed. They were believed to have been buried under piles of timber and fuel.

Police sources, who described the discoveries as "grim", said the bodies were in such an advanced state of decay that it was not immediately possible to tell whether they were male or female, adult or child.

Staff at Helston Community College - the school attended by three of the missing children, Craig, 13, Steven, 14, and Anne Marie, 16 - said educational psychologists were on stand by to counsel pupils. The eldest of the children, Sarah Jane, aged 17, worked at a McDonald's restaurant in Falmouth. All the children used their natural father's surname of Tranter.

The brother of the children's father, who had lived with Mrs Ford in Telford, Shropshire, said the family were distraught at the apparent tragedy. The relative, who declined to be named, said: "It's very difficult for all of us, especially my brother. We haven't seen the children for a while but we love them like anybody else."

Mrs Ford, who married her second husband 10 years ago, moved to Cornwall with her four children five years ago.

The couple had two younger children, who are believed to be in the care of relatives.

Detectives are expected to apply today to continue to detain Mr Ford for further questioning.

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