Mystery of the house of death in Rutland Close

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There were no answers to be had in Rutland Close yesterday morning, only questions and bewilderment.

There were no answers to be had in Rutland Close yesterday morning, only questions and bewilderment.

Residents of the cul-de-sac in the South Wales town of Barry woke to the knowledge that the respectable, church-going family at number 43 - Rob and Cath Mochrie and their four children - were dead. And they had been so for days.

They would later find out that Mrs Mochrie - sister of the former Welsh rugby star Terry Holmes - and the children had almost certainly been been battered to death by her husband using a blunt instrument.

Mr Mochrie, a former civil servant in the Welsh Office, was found hanged at the top of the stairs. In the shorthand police use in such circumstances, officers said they were not looking for anybody else in connection with the incident. No note was found.

"Do you have a motive?" Detective Superintendent Kevin O'Neill, was asked at a press conference yesterday. "No," he replied, "it remains a mystery why this dreadful tragedy has occurred."

The bodies of Mr and Mrs Mochrie and their children Bethan, 10, Luke, 14, Sian, 16, and 18-year-old James, were discovered by police at 8.30pm on Sunday. They had been called to the detached house by a family friend after no one had been seen for 10 or perhaps 11 days.

Police used a ladder to climb up to look through an upstairs window, then they broke in. Three young officers, not long in the force, walked in on what Det Supt O'Neill described as a "horrific scene".

Police were yesterday trying to piece together the sequence of events and pinpoint times of death. It is understood the bodies of Mrs Mochrie, 45, and the children were found in their bedrooms, although police could not say whether they had been killed in their beds. All had been dead for some time.

Friends and neighbours described the Mochries as a friendly family who had lived in Rutland Close for 15 years.

Mrs Mochrie regularly attended St Helen's Catholic church. The children were always out and about, especially Bethan who would walk the family's boxer dog, Brandy, who is missing. "Kath used to go to keep-fit and came to Slimming World with me at the community centre," a neighbour, Sue White, said.

"I don't know of any reason for this. There were never any problems with them. You never had the police arriving there or anything. I can't believe we are not going to see them again."

A spokesman for Terry Holmes, a former Welsh scrum-half, capped 25 times by his country, said: "This is an awful tragedy and the whole family is devastated. Terry is so upset and shattered because he and his sister were very close."

Neighbours said Mr and Mrs Mochrie did not mix much socially, but Mrs Mochrie was chairman of governors at a local primary school. She was also secretary of the Parents-Teachers Association at St Richard Gwyn Catholic School, which Sian and Luke attended and where James had been a pupil.

The headteacher, Mike Clinch, said: "They were a good, solid Catholic family. If you had said one of our families would be involved in an incident, the Mochries would be well down the list."

Luke, who suffered from a brain tumour several years ago, was a very bright but placid boy, he said. Academically, things came less easily to Sian, although she had just completed eight GCSE exams and "was expecting results" in five of them.

James had left with nine GCSEs and had just completed his A-levels at St David's Catholic College in Cardiff. Bethan, who is believed to have been autistic, was at a special needs school in Barry. James and Luke were 6ft tall and bigger than their father, Mr Clinch said.

Some reports yesterday said Mr Mochrie had e-mailed the school saying he was taking his family on an impromptu holiday, but Mr Clinch said he had not heard from the family for 10 days. This was not a real concern, because school was about to break up and the family "was not the sort you would worry about".

He said Mr Mochrie was calm, quiet and softly spoken, attending all the parents' evenings and "he asked all the right questions". Mr Clinch added: "Mrs Mochrie was very supportive of what we are trying to do in the school."

Mr Mochrie, who left the Welsh Office in 1994, had interests in licensed premises in the Barry area and had recently sold the Pembroke House Hotel in Haverfordwest. There were suggestions that he had financial problems. Detectives said they were not aware of any psychiatric problems and he had no police record.

Forensics experts and the Home Office pathologist who has started the post-mortem examinations are helping to build a picture of how events unfolded - and why. "Our feelings are those of utter disbelief," said the divisional commander, Superintendent Colin Jones. "It belies logic."