Car in which four children were killed had been stolen the day before

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Four children killed in a crash involving two cars were travelling in a stolen vehicle, police said.

The youngsters - aged between four and 16 - died near Tilbury, Essex, at about 6.20pm on Tuesday. Their Ford Fiesta had been stolen from Westcliff, Essex, the day before, Essex Police said.

Detectives believe the 30-year-old mother of the two youngest children, Davina Smith, was behind the wheel. But they have not ruled out the possibility that one of the teenagers was driving. Ms Smith suffered serious back injuries and is being treated at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent.

She has been told that her children, Karis Goyette, eight, and Kalli Goyette, four, were killed. Their father has also been informed.

Two teenagers, Lee Gray and Kezia Adger, both 16, from Tilbury, were also killed as the Fiesta travelled north from Tilbury to Chadwell St Mary.

A rapid-response car from Essex Ambulance Service was on its way to another emergency call when it came across the crash shortly after it happened. Six ambulances attended the scene, and passers-by and residents tried to help victims on the verge.

The children were taken to Basildon Hospital but three were pronounced dead on arrival. Karis, who attended Lansdowne Primary School in Tilbury with her sister, was treated at the hospital but died a short time later.

Chief Inspector Tom Diment, of Essex Police, said the accident was a "terrible tragedy". He said he would "not dismiss any possibility" over who was driving.

As part of the investigation involving 30 officers, scientists will check blood samples to see if the driver was under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Detectives are looking at CCTV footage and trying to establish where and how the car was stolen on Monday.

Investigators will also be checking the cars involved for mechanical defects and will look into the road conditions and layout.

A 56-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, who were passengers in the other car, a Vauxhall Corsa, escaped without serious injury. The driver of that car was breathalysed at the scene but was not over the drink-drive limit.

In other incidents, three people died and two were injured after their car hit a tree in Leicestershire. In Cambridgeshire, the bodies of two men and a woman were recovered after their car fell into a water-filled ditch. And in Carlisle, two people were killed after theirCorsa van collided with a Vauxhall Astra.