Mother 'may have pushed her daughter off hotel balcony'

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Police investigating the case of Gianna Cooper, the seven-year-old girl who is in a coma after falling from a hotel balcony in Majorca, have indicated she may have been pushed by her mother, who has been found dead near the scene. Speculation that the girl's fall was not an accident came after Sara Cooper's body was identified by her husband, Ian, after being found floating in a cave.

Mr Cooper yesterday announced the "devastating news" that the body was that of his wife, who had fled the hotel shortly after the incident. As his daughter remained in intensive care four days after the fall, Mr Cooper issued a statement through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"I can confirm the terrible news that the body of my dear wife, Sara, was found yesterday by the police," he said. "This is devastating news for me and my family and I would be grateful to the media if they could respect my family's privacy in order for us to concentrate on the recovery of my daughter, who continues to make good progress, and the well-being of my three sons." Mr Cooper added: "I would like to thank all those who have helped me and my family through this terrible time; the hospital which is caring for my daughter, the police and also the team at the British consulate in Majorca."

Gianna remains in a "serious but stable condition" in intensive care at the Son Dureta Hospital after her fall on Monday morning.

Mrs Cooper, 45, a former child-minder from Foxton, Cambridgeshire, disappeared after her daughter plunged from a fifth-floor balcony at the Hotel Samoa, in Calas de Majorca. Her body was found by police in a cave at Cala Domingos, 165 yards from the hotel.

An Interior Ministry official said that clothing thought to be that of Mrs Cooper was found floating at the cave after the authorities conducting land and sea searches.

A post-mortem examination was carried out on Mrs Cooper's body yesterday morning but police are remaining tight-lipped.

Officers refused to be drawn on theories as to what had happened to Gianna, apart from outlining the "possibilities" that she was pushed or she fell. "These are the only two possibilities at the moment," a spokeswoman said. Police added that although they have had several leads, they would not be issuing any further information unless authorised to do so by a judge.

The Cooper family took two rooms in the Samoa Hotel. Gianna and her mother stayed in a separate room to that of Mr Cooper and Gianna's two brothers, James, 13, and Jonathan, 11. Another son, Stephen, 15, the eldest, was not on the half-term family holiday.

Mrs Cooper is believed to have told the family that Gianna fell from the balcony shortly before fleeing the hotel.

Guests at the hotel have reportedly claimed that Mrs Cooper was behaving strangely in the days before Monday's incident.

Earlier, Alfonso Jiminez Perez, the commissioner of the national police heading the investigation in Palma, said Mrs Cooper may have fled because of remorse or shock. On her death, he added: "What we suppose is that she had fallen into the water, the current had carried her to an underwater cave and she had been there for two days."

Mr Perez confirmed that witnesses had reported signs of odd behaviour prior to the incident.

"Witnesses have given statements describing the strange behaviour of Sara Cooper in the days before her daughter fell," he said. "We have been told she made complaints in the hotel that poison was being put in her food and water.

"There is no medical proof on record that she was mentally unstable but that possibility is being investigated."